The Spring Hill Lady Bears got past the first game of the 2A South Girls Regional Basketball Tournament and secured a trip to the State Tournament Wednesday with a hard-fought 62-54 victory over the Acorn Lady Tigers.
The Lady Bears were able to jump out to a 14-0 lead in the 1st Period but the Lady Tigers were not content to let the Spring Hill girls get the win easily. Both squads seemed determined to push the pace up and down the court and both struggled at times to maintain possession of the ball, giving up steals and outright throwing the ball away on several occasions.
Acorns plan was clear out of the gate, put every available player on #13 Katie Rivera. This opened up her teammates though and Rivera was content to feed them the ball.
Spring Hill’s defense kept pace with Acorn’s offense through most of the fist half, maintaining their lead, but pressured shots and some mistakes with ball handling on the offense and a foul on defense against Acorn’s Holland on a successful 3-pointer gave the Lady Tigers a chance to get back into the game toward the end of the 2nd Period. Acorn was able to pull within 4 with Holland making the free throw to turn her 3-pointer into a 4-point play but the Spring Hill girls were able to push back and get the lead to 7 at the end of the half with a score of 32-25.
Spring Hill was first to score in the 3rd Period with Rivera passing to #15 Marta Gomez for a 2-point shot but Acorn wasn’t ready to give up. Both teams struggled with shots under the basket due to aggressive defensive play.
Despite the Lady Bear’s hustle going after the ball and success with rebounds, they had trouble making their shots from the floor and the free throw line, letting their lead slip to 1 after a lay-up by Acorn’s Butterfield made the score 42-41 in the closing seconds of the 3rd. The Lady Bears answered right back as Rivera drove down court and got the ball to #22 Paige Runion who hit a jumper at the buzzer to put Spring Hill up 44-41 at the close of the 3rd.
Aggressive defensive play continued into the 4th Period with neither team wanting their season to end. Rivera dished it to #23 Kaylee Brookes as she drove to the basket for a layup and the first points of the period to put the lead at 5 (46-41). The Lady Tigers were able to steal an inbound pass on the Lady Bears end of the court but Brookes cut off a pass, stole it right back and put up an open layup to expand the lead to 7 (48-41).
The Lady Tigers would claw their way back over the next few minutes as the Lady Bears struggled at the free throw line and Acorn was able to capitalize on every trip to the line that they made.
Acorn made it 48-43 after a shooting foul by Spring Hill gave them two shots from the free throw line. On the very next Spring Hill possession, Acorn stole the ball at half court and drove it to the basket for 2 more, reducing the Spring Hill lead to 3 (48-45). A free throw by Runion made it 49-45 but a pair of free throws by Acorn made it 49-47. Acorn’s Powell found Butterfield open in the paint for a short jump shot to tie the game 49-49 with 4 minutes left. Another Spring Hill foul sent Jackson to the free throw line where she hit both her shots and put the Lady Tiger in the lead 51-49.
The Acorn lead was short-lived, however, as Senior Katie Rivera would take the following inbound pass and drive the entire length of the court for a layup where she drew a foul. Rivera’s layup tied the game and she took the lead back by sinking the free throw, putting the Lady Bears back on top 52-51. Acorn tried to answer but the Lady Bears defense would have none of it.
#25 Brooklyn Reed made it 54-51 with layup after an Acorn turnover. An Acorn free throw made it 54-52 with about 2 minutes remaining but Rivera answered with 2 of her own as she was fouled on the following Spring Hill possession making it 56-52. After getting the rebound on a missed shot by Acorn, Rivera passed the length of the court to find Reed who put up a shot to make it 58-52 with 1:19 left in the game. Acorn answered with a basket to make it 58-54 but Spring Hill had control of the game and wouldn’t let them score again.
Spring Hill slowed the game forcing Acorn to foul Reed who went to the line and made her first shot making it 59-54. Reed missed her second but got her own rebound and Coach Whatley quickly called a timeout to keep possession with 45 seconds left. Gomez was fouled on the inbound and made it 60-54 with a free throw. Rivera put the nail in the coffin with a steal from Acorn’s Powell as she crossed mid-court and a breakaway drive to the basket for the final points of the game.
The Lady Bears advance to the second round of the Regional Tournament and secure their trip to State with their 62-54 victory over the Acorn Lady Tigers. They will play again Friday, February 22 at 4 p.m. against the winner of today’s game between Murfreesboro and Woodlawn.