AFTON — The Cloudland girls basketball team will be playing a sectional game right where it wants — at home.
The Lady Highlanders captured home-court advantage and the Region 1-A championship here Wednesday night, riding a strong performance from Brooke Rhodes and Courtney Wilson to a 47-31 win over Hampton.
Rhodes, who was named tournament MVP, is happy to be playing at home with a trip to the state tournament on the line against Grace Christian.
“It’s not my last home game. We get to go back home,” the senior said. “Hopefully we will do what we need to do and get down to state. With Hampton, too, it was very emotional. It was good to win.”
Rhodes led Cloudland with 20 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. Wilson also had a double-double, with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield was quick to point out the key to the Lady Highlanders’ championship run.
“I think our post players inside and our defense being really good,” Birchfield said. “Holding their shooters down, I thought we did a really good job with our team defense. The other thing was we had a presence inside.”
Cloudland took charge of the contest early, and had the better of it most of the way. But that doesn’t mean it was easy.
The Lady Highlanders jumped to a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and were up 22-14 at halftime.
Hampton’s best effort came in the third quarter when Danielle Guinn scored 10 points to give the Lady Bulldogs at least a shot of getting themselves into the game. The only problem was Wilson was busy scoring nine on the other end for Cloudland to keep the advantage steady at 35-27 going in the fourth quarter.
Rhodes dominated the fourth, scoring 10 points to confound any hopes of a Hampton comeback.
Hampton coach Leon Tolley said the most important thing is the Lady Bulldogs are still playing Saturday night in a sectional at Oliver Springs. He just wishes the effort would have been a little better against Cloudland.
“All tonight was for was the home game,” Tolley said. “It’s disappointing because we didn’t compete; that’s the biggest disappointment. After we gave so much against North Greene, we came out here tonight and it was just a total role reversal.
“Cloudland is a bad matchup for us, but I feel like we should be more competitive with them. I’m just disappointed in our effort.”
Kim Swearingen led Hampton with 13 points. Guinn finished with 10 — all in that third quarter — and led the Lady Bulldogs with seven rebounds.
For Cloudland, Birchfield is happy to have four more quarters back at home.
“It’s always great to play at home,” Birchfield said. “I think we are better at home, and to stay off that three-hour road trip. We’ll still face a real good team, but we are just glad to be at home and playing in front of our home crowd.”
Rhodes said she was pleased that not only the Lady Highlanders have a chance to make it to the state tournament, but Hampton as well.
“It’s kind of neat,” Rhodes said. “Our district did really well. It shows that we are dominant. Kudos to them for playing great, too.”