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Lady ‘Blazers lock down Jeff County, win region title

Douglas Fritz • Updated Feb 28, 2018 at 9:28 PM

DANDRIDGE — Region championships are rarely this easy, but this was the exception.

Daniel Boone’s zone defense was a Rubik’s Cube for Jefferson County’s offense, and the Lady Patriots’ two first-half points were part of a 47-31 win for the Lady Trailblazers in the Region 1-AAA basketball championship Wednesday night at Jeff County’s gym.

It was Boone’s first region title since 2003.

Both teams had already secured berths in Saturday’s sectional round, where a state tournament berth will be on the line. Boone (29-4) will be at home Saturday at 7 p.m. to take on Oak Ridge (25-6). The Lady Wildcats, who lost to Bearden in the Region 2-AAA final Wednesday, ended Boone’s season in the sectional last year.

“It’s going to take a bigger effort than we had today,” said Boone senior guard Macie Culbertson. “We’re going to have to watch some film, practice really hard and see what they do.”

Jeff County (22-11) will travel to face Bearden (27-7).

THE BAD

Jefferson County not only struggled scoring in the first half, the Lady Patriots often struggled coming close. Misfires aplenty, they got their lone bucket from Makayla Alvey at the 3:42 mark in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Lady Trailblazers built a 17-point lead with just 19 first-half points of their own.

Jeff County had just 13 points by the end of the third quarter, but a fourth-quarter scoring burst made the final score more respectable.

THE GOOD

Culbertson was a steady hand for Boone throughout the game. She finished with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists.

She said her team’s defensive effort in the first two quarters was what it needed to be.

“We just wanted to keep an eye on Ryleigh (Fritz) and all their shooters,” said Culbertson, who was the tournament’s most valuable player. “We just focused on keeping them out of the paint and not letting them get hot.”

Bayleigh Carmichel, who joined Culbertson and Sydney Pearce on the all-tournament team, added 12 points.

STAT SHEET STUFFER

Jaycie Jenkins was all over the court early in the game, and she didn’t let up. She finished with eight points, nine rebounds, three steals, two assists and a blocked shot.

“I just feel like it was hustle plays,” said Jenkins. “And I just passed it ahead to Macie so she could score. We’re all pitching in. We’re getting the offensive rebounds, we’re pushing it, we’re making our threes, and we’re making our free throws.”

COACH’S VIEW

Boone head coach Travis Mains said he thought the first half was a combination of two things.

“It may have been some nerves on their part, freshmen and sophomores,” said Mains. “But it didn’t look like they were open, and if they were open, they weren’t open for long.”

Mains said he was pleased with his team’s region tournament performance.

“Defensively it was just a different level,” said Mains. “The kids were really focused. Basically all they were worried about was winning.”

PATRIOT LEADER

Ryleigh Fritz was front and center for Jeff County, finishing with 14 points and three steals.

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