Unaka beats Wartburg for first-ever girls state win

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Mar 8, 2018 at 3:09 PM

MURFREESBORO — Myah Parlier was nearly perfect from the field and her Unaka teammates were nearly perfect from the free-throw line as the Lady Rangers beat Wartburg Central to win their first-ever girls' state tournament game.

Parlier hit 8 of 9 field goals for a team-high 16 points and her teammates made 18 of 19 free throws in the Lady Rangers' 61-54 victory over the Lady Bulldogs in the TSSAA Class A girls' basketball quarterfinals.

She also had a game-high nine rebounds and led an 8-0 Unaka run after it had fallen behind 48-43 in the fourth quarter.

"I knew our team to had score, so when the guards got me the ball, I just hoped I could put it in," Parlier said. "That's what I did."

Unaka (28-9) will take on Summertown (31-2) in a Friday semifinal set for 3:45 p.m. Eastern time. Wartburg Central, led by Makayla Poland with a game-high 19 points, ended its season 23-8.

Four Lady Rangers hit double figures.

Point guard Sarah Tipton had an all-around effort of 12 points, five rebounds and six assists despite battling illness. Savannah Tipton netted 11 points — she went 8 for 8 at the line — and Erika Potter finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Lexi Garland added a seven-point effort, attacking the basket for a couple of key baskets when Wartburg threatened to pull ahead.

Unaka dominated on the boards with a 35-21 rebounding advantage. It led to a 13-4 advantage in second-chance points, and the Lady Rangers outscored Wartburg 28-24 in the paint.

"In the tournaments, we've really stepped up," Unaka coach Kenneth Chambers said. "I've told them all year (that) to win big games, you have to rebound, make foul shots, layups and take care of the ball. We did a real good job with that. Our foul shots were awesome."

Unaka led 12-10 at the end of the first quarter and opened up a nine-point lead in the second, only to see Wartburg quickly cut it back to two. Undeterred, the Lady Rangers pushed it back out to six (29-23) at the half.

The Bulldogs, who forced 22 turnovers, recaptured the lead late in the third and was ahead 42-41 at the end of three quarters. Unaka had just gone on the 8-0 run to take a 51-48 lead when another challenge arose with Parlier fouling out with 2:57 left.

But, other players like Sydney Markland and Potter stepped up as the Rangers controlled the inside, and Sarah Tipton was key in helping Unaka break the Lady Bulldogs' full-court press.

Tipton was exhausted at the end after playing 24 tough minutes, but the efforts of her and the other Lady Rangers resulted in the historic win for the program. Chambers, who also led the Unaka softball team to the state tournament last May, didn't take the moment for granted, but also feels his team can compete in the next round.

"This win means the world to us," Chambers said. "We've had some opportunities to get to the next level and have had some great teams. It's an honor just to be down here, but we feel like we have a team, if we keep working hard, we can find ways to make things happen. The kids don't give up and there's no quit in them."



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