Down by 14 points in the third quarter, the Lady Rangers quickly cut the lead in half. Down by 13 with a little over three minutes to go, they sliced it to eight at the 2:18 mark before Summertown finally pulled away for a 59-44 win Friday afternoon at Middle Tennessee State University.
Unaka ended its season 28-10 while the Lady Eagles soared to a 32-2 record, advancing to play Greenfield in Saturday’s state championship game.
“I’m proud of these girls,” Unaka coach Kenneth Chambers said. “We have great seniors and it was a team effort all the way through this. They played hard and they never quit. They could have lost in the district, in the region, but they had a never-quit attitude and because of that, we were able to pull out a lot of ball games.”
Myah Parlier finished with 14 points and nine rebounds to lead the Lady Rangers. Lexi Garland had eight points and five rebounds, Savannah Tipton came through with seven points and Sarah Tipton ended with six points and four assists.
The coach talked about the unselfishness of the team, which totaled 11 assists — and had different players lead in scoring throughout the season.
“One game, Sarah might be the leading scorer and the next game it might be Lexi and the next game, it might be Myah,” Chambers said. “In every game, one or two might step up. That made us a hard team to guard because you couldn’t just key on one player. It was kind of like Summertown where they had great shooters, but you had to guard everyone. These girls, they learned to play as a team and as a family.”
TOUGH WAY TO END THE HALF
Summertown led 11-9 at the end of one quarter, but pushed the lead to 30-22 at the half when Jenna Brazier hit a wide-open 3-pointer with just four seconds left. Chambers took responsibility for the late score as the Rangers were trying to come up with a turnover.
“We made a couple of bad decisions, and some may have been mine,” Chambers said. “Right before halftime, I knew they were going to hold for a last shot. We tried to trap the ball and they made a pass out of it. We were a little late getting there.
“Then in the second half, it was like we would score and they would score. It was a 10-point game most of the second half until we had to foul them at the end.”
Unaka finished with a slight rebounding advantage, 23-22, but was outscored 26-14 in the paint. Summertown had a 20-9 edge in points off turnovers, but the biggest advantage came at the free-throw line — 26-13 on attempts, although many of those came late when the Lady Rangers were forced to foul.
Summertown was led by Josie Franks with 15 points and seven rebounds. Reily Brazier finished with 13 points, going 8 for 8 at the free-throw line, and Kaley Campbell made 6 of 7 free throws in a 10-point effort.
BETTER THAN THE NBA
Through the first two days, nobody at the state tournament was better at the free-throw line than Unaka.
The Lady Rangers hit 11 of 13 on Friday and made 29 of 32 (90.6 percent) free throws over two games. To put that in perspective, it’s over a 10-point better percentage than what the Golden State Warriors have shot this season to lead the entire NBA.
Savannah Tipton hit all 12 of her charity tosses over two games and Garland went 6 for 6 on her foul shots.
This Unaka team with seniors Lexi Garland, Sarah Tipton and Sydney Markland won the first state tournament game in school history Thursday and advanced farther in the state tournament than any team from Northeast Tennessee this season.
“I have to thank our community,” Sarah Tipton said. “We have the best team ever from the players, the coaches, the parents and fans. I’m so thankful we got to experience this our last year.”
Garland added: “I’ve never experienced anything like that and I’m glad I got to do it with my family. It was really exciting and everybody was congratulating us. I’m sure the whole town of Elizabethton was celebrating the first game we won. It was fun — really, really fun.”