MURFREESBORO — Cloudland was right there, but No. 1-ranked Union City proved to be a little stronger.
The Lady Highlanders trailed by just three points and had possession with less than four minutes left in the game, but couldn’t get over the hump and eventually faded to a 45-29 loss in the quarterfinals of the girls Class A state basketball tournament Thursday morning at Murphy Center.
It was a season-ending loss for Cloudland (24-12) while Union City improved to 31-3 and moved into today’s semifinal against Clarkrange.
One of the biggest problems for Cloudland was the physicality of Union City. The Lady Tornadoes weren’t flashy, just strong.
“I’ve played in travel ball against girls like that,” said Cloudland’s Brooke Rhodes. “It’s totally different when you go against girls your size that are as strong or stronger than you are.”
After a 9-0 run by Union City put the Highlanders in a 22-15 hole in the third quarter, Cloudland started battling back. A key shot in the comeback attempt was Madison Wilson’s trey bomb from the corner, making it 26-22 with 1:06 remaining in the period.
Rhodes followed with a pair of free throws to make it 26-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
Trailing 29-26, Cloudland had possession but rushed a shot that missed. Trailing 31-28, Cloudland got in a hurry in transition and threw the ball out of bounds.
“I think we got a little anxious,” said Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield. “That’s a situation where you’ve got to be composed in the state tournament, and work for the best shot you can get.”
With 3:22 left in the game, Cloudland endured a game-changing shot by Union’s Tori Reedy. The senior guard banked in a wing 3-pointer for a 34-28 lead.
It was the third banked-in shot of the half for the Lady Tornadoes.
“That was big,” said Birchfield. “It was a big three for them, and a turning point in the game.”
Kristin Davis hit her only shot of the game a minute later, and her 3-pointer spelled doom for Cloudland. Union City eventually turned the back-to-back treys into a 14-0 run that made the final score look a little deceiving.
“I can’t be more proud,” said Birchfield. “These girls succeeded in every way. They never quit.”
Cloudland struggled to find its shooting range early, and eventually made just 6 of 23 (26 percent) from the field in the first half. However, Rhodes came to life late in the second quarter, and her rim-crawling buzzer-beating shot gave the Lady Highlanders a 14-13 halftime edge.
“After I hit that shot, with them being No. 1, it was good that we were ahead by one,” said Rhodes. “But the shots just weren’t falling for us.”
For the game, Cloudland was just 9 of 38 from the field for 23 percent. The Lady Highlanders were 2 of 15 from 3-point land.
“It was definitely hard shooting down here compared to home,” said Rhodes. “It sounds different. Everything is different. But we’ve got to be able to make shots.”
Rhodes finished with 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field. She had eight rebounds and two blocked shots before fouling out with 1:17 left in the game.
No other Cloudland player scored more than five points.
Union City got 12 points from Jackie Hudson. Reedy finished with eight points and 12 rebounds.