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By Staff
Hartselle defeats Wenonah 47-35 in regional final to advance to Final Four
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
HANCEVILLE – For the third straight year, the Hartselle Lady Tigers cried after their final game at the regional tournament. Only this time, they were tears of joy.
Hartselle (28-6) defeated Wenonah 47-35 in the finals of the Northwest Regional Friday morning, putting the Lady Tigers into the Class 5A Final Four. Hartselle will face three-time defending champion Ramsay in the state semifinals tomorrow at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex arena at 9 a.m. The winner of that game will advance to the Class 5A state championship Saturday at 5 p.m. and face the winner of the St. Paul's-Arab semifinal.
"This is a bit of relief," Hartselle senior Lauren Drake said. "We've been here two years before and there were always high expectations. It's nice that we got it done this year and we're going to Birmingham."
Drake, along with seniors Mary Virginia Reeves and Jessica Andrews and junior Anna Reeves, was a member of the two previous Hartselle teams who saw their seasons end in Wallace State. In 2006, Hartselle fell in the regional semifinal to Fairfield and in 2005, the team dropped a regional semifinal to eventual champion Ramsay.
This celebration has been a long time coming.
"We've been right on the edge the past few years and it was nice to finally break through," Hartselle head coach Greg Adams said.
Hartselle fell behind early against Wenonah, trailing 9-5 early before battling back to tie it at 13-13 after one quarter. The game remained close through the rest of the first half, with Hartselle nursing a slim 24-21 lead at halftime.
Then in the third quarter, the Lady Tigers' offense took off as Hartselle outscored its opponent 14-5. Mary Virginia Reeves opened the third quarter with a lay-up and Wenonah's Fredeidra Cole hit one of two free throws and it looked as if the third quarter would be just as close as the play in the first half.
Hartselle then went on a 7-0 run, beginning that spurt of offense with an Anna Reeves three-pointer with 5:53 left in the quarter. Reeves' trey came after Mary Virginia Reeves had a shot blocked to the wing by Wenonah's Jasmine Tate. But Hartselle's Heather Speegle secured the loose ball and passed it to Anna Reeves, who buried a three-pointer from the top of the key.
"After a close halftime, I felt pretty good," Adams said. "But I wanted to make an emphasis for us to come out in the third quarter and try to make a run. We were able to get a couple of easy baskets but we also hit some big shots."
Hartselle led 38-26 after three quarters and held off any Wenonah attempt at a comeback in the fourth quarter. The Lady Dragons never cut into Hartselle's lead any closer than seven points.
Early in the game, Wenonah tried to use half-court pressure to force Hartselle into turnovers, as the Lady Dragons have done several times to their opponents. But the Lady Tigers were able to break the press and take care of the ball – Hartselle had just nine turnovers in the contest.
"We wanted to press them, and they came up with a way to beat our press," Wenonah coach Emanuel Tubb Bell said. "Once that plan didn't work, we had to go to Plan B, and it just kind of ruined what we wanted to do."
Hartselle coach Greg Adams explained how the Lady Tigers were able to deal with the defensive pressure.
"We knew what we had to do," he said. "(The coaches) hounded on these girls during practice that we had to break the press with a pass and not a dribble. A lot of times we get ourselves in trouble when we try to dribble out of pressure and this time we used some long passes up the court to break the press."
Wenonah's failure to force turnovers wasn't the only thing that hurt the Lady Dragons. Wenonah hit just 2 of 17 free throws, including a span of 12 straight in the fourth quarter. The Lady Dragons were also 1-of-14 from the three-point line.
"We had our opportunities late, but we couldn't hit our free throws," Bell said. "I mean, 2-of-17, and we lost by 12; you do the math."
Mary Virginia Reeves led Hartselle with 16 points in the game and also pulled down six rebounds and created three steals. She was named the All-Regional team most valuable player and was joined on the team by Jessi Smith. Smith and Drake each scored nine points and Drake also had six rebounds.
Anna Reeves hit both of her three-point attempts in the game and finished with six points.
Tate finished with a double-double performance for Wenonah, whose season ended with a 25-8 record. She scored 12 points and pulled down 20 rebounds. Cole led the Lady Dragons with 16 points.

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