Lady Tigers close out regular season with win
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
If the last four games are any indication, the Lady Tigers have done a lot of maturing during the regular season. That's a scary proposition for other Class 5A teams in the state.
Monday night, No. 2 Hartselle fought past No. 6 Buckhorn 51-49 to finish the regular season 23-5.
In its last four games, beginning with the Morgan County Tournament championship against Brewer, Hartselle has faced four teams in a row who defeated the Lady Tigers earlier in the regular season. Their record in those last four games – four wins, zero losses. Buckhorn defeated Hartselle 62-58 in overtime Dec. 15, 2005.
"When we came back after Christmas we broke down our season into four parts," Hartselle coach Greg Adams said. "The first part back was five straight area games, the second part was the county tournament, the third part was these 'payback games' and the fourth part is the postseason.
"We've accomplished three of those goals and now we've got postseason. I think this approach works well for our girls because they're goal-motivated and focusing on individual goals like this helps us."
The Lady Tigers had to battle early and often. Buckhorn closed the second quarter on a 7-0 run to take a five-point lead at halftime and closed the third quarter with an 8-0 run to take a 41-36 lead after three quarters of play.
Buckhorn continued to lead in the fourth quarter until Jessica Andrews knocked down a three-pointer with 5:39 left to put Hartselle back in front, 46-45. Buckhorn and Hartselle traded leads several times and Adams used a timeout with 3:05 left and the Lady Tigers down 49-48.
Ten seconds later, Andrews hit another three-pointer to give Hartselle a 51-49 lead, a lead that would stand up after both teams finished the game in sloppy fashion.
The Lady Tigers had a chance to ice the game with late free throws, but missed both front ends of two one-and-one situations. Buckhorn also had its chances to win, but missed several shots and had a few turnovers of its own.
In the closing seconds, the Lady Bucks missed a potential tying shot and Anna Reeves collected the rebound to run out the clock and give Hartselle the victory.
"We didn't handle the last minute of that game very well with missing free throws and turnovers, but still again, we've been in these kinds of games before and when we really needed to crank it up on defense in the second half we were able to," Adams said. "Holding Buckhorn to 49 points, with the points that they score is quite an accomplishment. They've been scoring 75-80 points their last few games."
Andrews and Lauren Drake each had 12 points to lead Hartselle in scoring, followed by Shan Jones with 11. Reeves scored nine points, all on three-pointers.
Kelly Cook had a game-high 14 points to lead the way for Buckhorn, who fell to 18-7.
Hartselle opens the Area 16 tournament at home Thursday night when it faces Russellville at 7:30 p.m. The Lady Tigers and Lady Golden Tigers met twice during the regular season, with Hartselle winning both matches.
Buckhorn boys 70
Hartselle boys 55
For a team that prides itself on defense, Monday night's first quarter effort was an unusual sight.
Hartselle allowed Buckhorn 25 points in the first quarter as the Bucks opened with a 25-10 lead. That 15-point deficit would prove to be the winning margin. Buckhorn was able to take a large lead partially due to a 5-for-5 performance from behind the three-point line in the first eight minutes of the game.
"We didn't guard. We gave up 25 points and nowhere have we been that poor – 11 against Decatur, 11 against West Morgan, 13 against Athens," Hartselle coach Johnny Berry said. "That was so atypical of what we've done this season."
With the loss, Hartselle closes its regular season with a 2-24 record. Even despite the disappointing regular season, the Tigers can still make noise in the area tournament as they face off against No. 1 seed Athens on the road Friday night.
"We're going to have to be better defensively," Berry said of what his team will need to do to pull off the huge upset. "We're going to have to be very patient on offense. We're going to have to take good shots – we took some bad shots tonight and that led to runouts for Buckhorn.
"We'll probably add a few more wrinkles and new things, but you know that Athens is going to do the same thing to us. We just want to give ourselves a chance late in the game; that's all we ask."
Against Buckhorn, Hartselle actually had one of its better offensive performances of the season as 11 different players scored for the Tigers. Jackson Holmes scored 15 to lead the team, followed by Tyler Young with 10.
Trent Simpson had 24 points to lead Buckhorn.