MURFREESBORO — Hampton scored a combination knockout of Pickett County.
The Lady Bulldogs hit hard with defense early, weathered a comeback storm with timely buckets, and finished Pickett with a variety of blows down the stretch.
It resulted in a 78-64 victory in the quarterfinals of the TSSAA Class 1A girls’ state basketball tournament Wednesday at Murphy Center.
Improving to 31-2, Hampton moved into Friday’s semifinal at 2:15 p.m. against Wayne County, which steamrolled Dresden, 69-48. Top-ranked Wayne County improved to 35-0.
In another Class A game, Van Buren County ended North Greene’s season with a 55-45 decision.
A big part of Hampton’s win was a start that allowed the Lady Bulldogs to build a 12-point first-quarter lead.
No state tournament nerves here.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the fact we try to set the tone for what we do defensively,” Hampton head coach Brandon Carpenter said. “Whether you’re nervous or not, you can play defense.”
The Bulldogs racked up a lot of steals early, but Pickett was able to regroup and protect the ball better in the second half. It was perhaps the only down statistical note for the Lady Bulldogs as they totaled only eight steals. Coming into the game, Hampton was averaging 21 thefts per contest.
WINNING IN THE BORO
It was the Lady Bulldogs’ third state tournament win since 2009, and they got it with teamwork. Five Hampton players reached double figures with Macy Henry’s 19-point effort leading the way.
Piper Helle scored 17 points, Madison McClain went 11 of 11 from the free throw line — while also dishing out nine assists — and finished with 14 points. Also, Linsey Jenkins chipped in with 12 points and Taylor Berry joined the double-digit scoring club with 10.
“I’ve said from the get-go, we don’t have one kid who stands out,” Carpenter said. “But I still feel like we have a good basketball team with five or six kids who all do their jobs and score with the basketball.”
Hampton stormed out to a 26-12 lead early in the second quarter. The Bulldogs pushed the lead to 35-20 late in the second quarter.
But with foul trouble setting in on both teams, Pickett closed the first half with an 8-1 run to make it 36-28 at the break.
Continuing to keep Hampton on its heels, Pickett’s run stretched to 28-9 as they took a 48-44 lead late in the third quarter.
“We got into foul trouble and had to back out of being so aggressive,” Carpenter said. “We got out of rhythm, but we weathered it and made adjustments. And the kids stepped up and made plays.”
Hampton regrouped with its own impressive run. The Lady Bulldogs outscored Pickett 17-4 to pull back out to a nine-point lead at 61-52, and the Lady Bobcats got no closer than six the rest of the way.
Leading the way for Pickett County was freshman Zoey Nicholas, who finished with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field. Callie Reeder added 15 points and eight rebounds while Emerson Lowe totaled 12. Without a senior on its roster, the Lady Bobcats figure to be in the title chase again in 2024.
FACING WAYNE COUNTY
Hampton figures to have its hands full against the Lady Wildcats.
“They are undefeated and have been ranked No. 1 from the beginning of the season to now, for a reason,” Carpenter said. “They have an excellent basketball team. It will be a huge challenge, but I think our kids are ready and will give everything they have. We’re not going to go in and lay down.”
In Wayne County’s quarterfinal win, standout 6-foot sophomore Blair Baugus just missed a triple-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight blocked shots and three steals.
VAN BUREN 55, NORTH GREENE 45
The Lady Huskies stayed close for a half, but couldn’t keep pace in the final 16 minutes.
Sonya Wagner led North Greene with 15 points while Hannah Miller added 13. Haley Bailey totaled 13 rebounds.
Layla Bouldin had 21 points for Van Buren.