AFTON — Carter County will host a Class A girls sectional on Saturday night. Whether it’s at Hampton or Cloudland will be decided in a winner-take-all showdown between the two old rivals Wednesday night in the Region 1-A championship game.
Both teams had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to win their respective semifinals here Monday night. The Lady Bulldogs came alive late to knock off North Greene 36-31, while the Lady Highlanders got it done at the foul line to get past Cosby 39-35.
Hampton and Cloudland will meet for the third time this season on Wednesday at Chuckey-Doak Middle School with not only the region crown on the line but the right to host a sectional game.
North Greene 31
Senior Danielle Guinn stepped up in the fourth quarter to lead Hampton to the region championship game, rallying the Lady Bulldogs from behind.
Guinn scored all seven of her points in the fourth quarter and was the game’s leading rebounder, with 12. The Lady Bulldogs trailed for almost all of the first three quarters, but a 3-pointer by Guinn to start the fourth opened the door for Hampton to play for the title.
“It’s my senior year. I didn’t want it to end in the second round of the regionals,” Guinn said. “We want to host a home substate game. We’ve never hosted one since I’ve been in high school. It would be great to have one my senior year.”
Coach Leon Tolley said you can’t just credit Guinn. When the Lady Bulldogs lost team leader Dorothy Dugger to a knee injury, the entire squad answered the call.
“This is the third game we’ve played without Dorothy, and Dani has stepped up all three. But it takes every one of us,” Tolley said. “We bring Kaitlin (Irick) in; we bring Kim (Swearingen) in; we bring Madi (Weir) in. They are all filling the role. It’s just a good team effort right now.”
North Greene (25-9) held a narrow lead at every stop except the last one. The Lady Huskies were up 9-7 at the end of one and 15-12 at halftime. They held a 21-20 advantage heading into the fourth, but a 3-pointer by Guinn to start the period put Hampton up for only the second time in the game. It wasn’t decided until Paige Montgomery hit two free throws with 6.8 seconds remaining to put Hampton up by two possessions.
“Every time we play them it’s an ugly game because we know each other so well,” said Tolley, whose Lady Bulldogs split four meetings with North Greene this year. “We made up our mind that we weren’t going to press. We were going to play half-court so we wouldn’t lose their shooters. We wanted to make them earn their points. Credit to our girls, that’s some of the best defense we’ve played all year.”
Irick led Hampton in scoring with eight. Mendy McNeese paced the Lady Huskies with 16.
There was never much separation between the teams the entire night. Both played fast, and both played hard. When the action became heated in the fourth quarter, it was the Lady Highlanders that got the job done at the foul line.
“I thought the physical play affected the game, especially down the stretch,” said Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield.
The game was tied at 16 at halftime, and Cosby held the slimmest of margins (31-30) at the start of the fourth quarter. There were a combined 13 points scored in the final eight minutes, 11 of them coming on free throws.
The big key for the Lady Highlanders was to keep close contact for about four minutes of the fourth quarter with leading scorer Brooke Rhodes out of the game. They did just that, taking the lead for the final time 36-35 on a pair of foul shots by Kendall Mull (her only two points of the night), and then getting another two from the stripe from Courtney Wilson to seal the win.
Rhodes led the way with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Cosby got 20 points from Bethanie Williams.
Wednesday night’s title showdown will be the third meeting of the year between Cloudland and Hampton. The Lady Highlanders took both of the previous meetings, but Birchfield said they will have a challenge ahead with the title on the line.
“Anytime you play Hampton, and it doesn’t matter if we play one or five, it’s going to be such a rivalry,” Birchfield said. “Those kids played their hearts out tonight. They are just getting better and starting to rally. We are expecting hard-fought defense, and they’ve got kids that can score. We have to bear down and handle that pressure.”