Halfway to Birmingham
Hartselle rarely tested in 55-42 regional semifinal win over Pleasant Grove
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
HANCEVILLE – The Lady Tigers haven't won a tournament championship so far this season, but now they're just three victories away from winning the big one.
No. 3 Hartselle led for most of the game and all of the second half as it advanced at the Northwest Regional with a 55-42 win over unranked Pleasant Grove at Wallace State's Tom Drake Coliseum Tuesday afternoon.
The Lady Tigers pushed out to a 45-27 lead after three quarters before Pleasant Grove attempted a comeback, though the Lady Spartans never got Hartselle's lead below eight points.
Hartselle used a balanced offense to keep Pleasant Grove at bay, with four Lady Tigers scoring in double figures. Jessica Andrews led Hartselle (27-6) with 13 points, Mary Virginia Reeves finished with 11 points and Lauren Drake and Jessi Smith scored 10 points each. The Lady Tigers shot 55.6 percent (20-of-36) from the field and 7-of-12 from the three-point line.
The three-point shot proved to be a key in helping Hartselle to a 32-23 halftime lead. The Lady Tigers shot four three-pointers in the first half, with Andrews and Smith scoring two each. Those long-distance shots opened things up in the paint for Mary Virginia Reeves, who scored 10 of her 11 points in the first half.
"I think that they were so aware of Mary Virginia and Lauren inside that it really helped to hit a few of those three pointers," Hartselle coach Greg Adams said. "We probably could have kept shooting in the second half, but there really wasn't a need to. In the fourth quarter, we were just trying to run out the clock; they were quicker than us, but we were able to hold on."
Hartselle moves on to face Wenonah in the regional final Friday at 9 a.m. Wenonah defeated Brewer 52-40 in a semifinal game Tuesday morning, preventing what would have been the fifth meeting between the two county schools.
"Brewer defeated us twice and took two championships (county and area) away from us and we'd have liked to have taken one away from them," Andrews said.
Hartselle and Wenonah did not face each other during the regular season.
"Sometimes things like that can get in your head," Drake said of not having to face the Lady Patriots again. "It's also nice to have a clean slate; we don't know a lot about them but they also don't know about us and the things we can do, either."
One of the things Hartselle was able to do Tuesday was play defense, holding the Lady Spartans to 38 percent shooting from the field and keeping Pleasant Grove to four points in the third quarter. Hartselle also out-rebounded Pleasant Grove 28-21.
"The thing that stood out to me about Hartselle is that they were one of the best rebounding teams we've seen as far as (the post players)," Pleasant Grove coach Lucas McDonald said.
Hartselle's height had a lot to do with that rebounding edge. The Lady Spartans' tallest player is listed at 5-foot-9, while Hartselle has four players 5-foot-10 or taller.
"We tried to get inside and I think we established that," Adams said. "Overall, I thought that was the big difference for us in the game."