For the second night in a row, North Murray High School’s girls basketball team needed a 3-pointer in the final seconds, and once again Grace Phillips was down waiting beyond the arc to get a pass.
But unlike on Friday night — when Phillips buried a 3-pointer to give the Lady Mountaineers a win over Dade County — there wasn’t any magic this time around, thanks to the defense of Calhoun’s Tess Wright.
Wright hemmed up North Murray’s Megan Pittman at the top of the key and Calhoun came away with a 51-48 win in the finals of the Alfa Insurance Mistletoe Madness tournament at North Murray. Lady Yellow Jackets freshman Jana Johns hit a 3-pointer of her own with 13.5 seconds in the game to break a 48-48 tie, and Pittman wasn’t able to get off a pass or a shot as the Lady Jackets claimed the win.
“Great, that means I have to deal with her for the next three years,” North Murray coach Keith Robinette said of Johns, referring to the fact that North Murray and Calhoun will be in the same region next year due to Georgia High School Association realignment.
“I am disappointed that we couldn’t finish it, but this has been a good week for us and our demeanor has really changed. It is really fun to coach when they are playing for each other and giving all they have to try to win a game.”
In other girls games during the final day of competition at the three-round tournament that stretched over four days and two different locations, Sonoraville beat Dade County for third place, Dalton beat Gilmer 54-47 for third place and Christian Heritage beat Coahulla Creek 60-46 for seventh place.
In boys games, North Murray beat Gordon Lee 62-59 for third place, Gilmer beat Christian Heritage 69-60 for fifth place and Sonoraville beat Morris Innovative for seventh place. The championship between Calhoun and Heritage was not complete at The Daily Citizen’s deadline.
Close from start to finish, the girls’ title game featured plenty of pressure from the Calhoun (8-3) defense and a lot of bombing from outside. The two teams matched each other with six 3-pointers apiece, and the biggest lead of the game was just five points — twice in favor of the Lady Mountaineers when Kara Deal hit 3-pointers in the third quarter.
The rest of the way was back and forth — the game had 24 ties or lead changes between the two.
The Lady Mountaineers (4-6) were just 4 of 10 from the free-throw line when any little cushion could have helped. Calhoun’s Kyleigh Carney tied the game at 48-48 on a drive after two missed Lady Mountaineers free throws, and then Johns hit the biggest shot of the night.
Members of the girls all-tournament team were Haley Reece (Coahulla Creek), Sarah Massengale (Christian Heritage), Sarah Hartshorn (Dalton), Bailey Charles (Gilmer), Lauren Breeden (Dade County), Callie Davis (Calhoun) and Deal. Johns was the Most Valuable Player.
• North Murray boys 62, Gordon Lee 59: Over the last four minutes of the game, the Mountaineers (8-4) held Gordon Lee to just four points to take the third-place matchup.
A balanced North Murray attack was paced by Jordan Couch and Noah Allen, who each scored 10 points. North Murray trailed by three at the end of the first half.
Members of the all-tournament team for the boys were Clark Johnson (Sonoraville), Russell Burse (Morris Innovative), Joe Bob Charles (Gilmer), Cameron Locke (Christian Heritage), Garrett McAllister (Gordon Lee), Omar Romero (North Murray). Neither Calhoun nor Heritage’s all-tournament selections had been set yet, nor had the tournament MVP.
• Dalton girls 54, Gilmer 47: In a matchup of Region 7-4A rivals, Dalton’s Lady Catamounts pushed a one-point halftime lead into an eight-point margin and held the Lady Bobcats at bay thereafter to avenge a 57-45 loss to Gilmer on Dec. 13.
Dalton (4-3) led 26-25 going into the third quarter, and coach Lacie Coquerille said her Lady Cats put a clamp on Gilmer’s leading scorer, Charles. Dalton also did a better job of handling Gilmer’s press, which helped the Lady Bobcats make a 22-0 run during their previous meeting.
“Coming out of the locker room, we adjusted defensively on who was guarding (Charles) and was aware of where she was at,” Coquerille said. “We handled their press very well and stayed aggressive. That got us to the foul line, and we hit our free throws down the stretch.”
Dalton was 16 of 27 from the free-throw line, while Charles was held to 13 points overall.
Hartshorn led Dalton with 22 points, and Hannah Cox added 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
• Gilmer boys 69, Christian Heritage 60: A big third quarter almost pushed the Lions to an improbable comeback, but offensive struggles kept them from staying above .500 at the tournament.
Gilmer led 38-20 at halftime, but Christian Heritage (5-5) tied it at 41 late in the third quarter, although the Bobcats hit a 3-pointer to go ahead 44-41 entering the final period.
The Lions were hurt by their 4-for-8 showing at the foul line. Gilmer went 19-for-22, with Charles doing much of his damage with free throws during a 26-point showing that led all scorers.
“We played a really good game, but in the first half we missed a lot of open shots,” Christian Heritage coach Anthony Moseley said. “We played better after halftime. If we would have played the first half like we did the second half, it would have been a totally different story — we would have run them out of the gym.”
Locke made six 3-pointers — all but one after halftime — as he led the Lions with a 23-point performance. Jake Porter added 16 points and Chase Tidwell had 10.
• Christian Heritage girls 60, Coahulla Creek 46: Massengale had 17 points and nine rebounds as the Lady Lions picked up their first win at the tournament and just their second in 12 games this season.
Mollie Crawford and Ransley Defoor each chipped in 12 points — Crawford also had six assists — for Christian Heritage, which led 18-12, 38-25 and 49-36 at the quarter breaks.
“You could tell before the game that we just seemed to have a very different demeanor,” Lady Lions coach Heather Lowery said. “We just seemed very positive, even after the loss we had last night.
“We just came right out and we pressed a lot, got a lot of steals and we made some really good passes — that third and fourth pass for a good shot. Sarah was mismatched several times, so we fed her, and we switched up our defense just to get some different looks and we just adjusted — we did a great job adjusting to that. It was a win we wanted and needed.”
The Lady Colts (5-8), who had entered the tournament with a .500 mark, likely left Chatsworth frustrated. Coahulla Creek coach Ryan Long said communication must improve for his team in the season’s second half.
“In spurts we play well and communicate and listen, and in spurts we’re not,” he said. “So that’s what I’m trying to figure out now.”
Nikki Ross had 16 points and 15 rebounds to lead Coahulla Creek, while Bethany Goodwin added 10 points and Reece had nine.
• Sonoraville boys 63, Morris Innovative 17: Justin Scott’s nine points led the Tigers, who trailed 42-9 at halftime and are still looking for their first win 11 games into the school’s inaugural varsity season.
• White County (Tenn.) boys 44, Coahulla Creek 28: On the final day of the State Farm Christmas Classic at Northwest Whitfield, trouble keeping possession of the basketball throughout the game and a poor offensive showing in the third quarter hurt Coahulla Creek (6-7) in the third-place game.
The Colts, who finished with 20 turnovers, scored just four points in the third quarter.
“It goes back to we didn’t play very team-oriented ball,” Colts coach Matthew Queener said. “The other team didn’t have a whole lot of points. We held them to a poor shooting percentage.”
Coahulla Creek’s was worse, though.
The Colts only shot 18.4 percent from the field. The first quarter ended with White County ahead 8-7, and the Warriors scored the first nine points of the second quarter. Coahulla Creek trailed 22-15 at halftime but the deficit stretched to 35-19 entering the final period.
• Dalton boys 78, Howard (Chattanooga) 38: The Catamounts (4-3) earned fifth place at the State Farm Christmas Classic after holding their opponents to two points in the first quarter.
“I thought our defense to start the game in the first four or five minutes was really good,” Dalton coach Mike Duffie said. “We rotated well and cut off passing lanes. We didn’t finish some offensive plays, but we finally got it going and played well.”
Emier Bowman finished with 21 points to lead Dalton — which was up 32-17 at halftime — while Mark Sims and Braxton Thomas each tallied 13 points. Nathan Bryant made three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Dalton won two of its three games at the tournament.
• Northwest boys 65, Murray County 36: The host Bruins shook off a tight first quarter to take control and cruise to victory in the seventh-place game.
A 10-10 game at the close of the first quarter, Northwest (5-5) opened a 38-16 lead at halftime and stretched that to 53-24 entering the fourth quarter.
“We got some steals and transition buckets,” Northwest coach Ryan Richards said. “Once the game started flowing, we started hitting shots. I think they play better once the game starts flowing. ... They settle in.”
Hitting shots for the Bruins were Tanner Bailey, who led with 17 points, and Caleb Storey, who followed with 12 points. Caleb Branson also chipped in 12 points.
Nick Stiles scored 11 points to lead Murray County (1-11). Cesar Romero, one of the Indians’ most valuable players, had foul trouble after receiving his third infraction early in the second quarter and was kept on the bench.
“I think we were missing him in a big way,” Murray County coach Greg Linder said. “On defense, he’s a very underrated player. He protects the rim and communicates really well.”
Northwest bounced back after losing its first two games at the tournament. Murray County lost all three of its games, but Linder said the last showing was much better than Friday’s 61-16 loss to Dalton.
n The championship game at Northwest between Riverdale and Tennessee’s Walker Valley was not reported by The Daily Citizen’s deadline.
• Northwest girls 84, Ooltewah (Tenn.) 34: In their final game at the three-day Smoky Mountain Classic in Gatlinburg, Tenn., the Lady Bruins (10-3) earned their first win at the event and claimed seventh place in their eight-team bracket.
Four players scored in double-digits, with Halle Ford’s 16-point effort leading the way. She also had four steals.
Macy Weeks chipped in 14 points, Kerrigan King had 13 and Mallory Souther finished with 11. Peyton Maret and Aubrey Young each had a team-best five rebounds for Northwest, which led 22-9, 53-16 and 72-30 at the quarter breaks.
Balanced scoring has been an asset for Northwest throughout the season, with several players sharing the load and a different player seemingly at the top of the list for the Lady Bruins every game.
“That’s why I feel like it’s hard for people to game plan on just one or two people for us,” Northwest coach Greg Brown said. “We’ve got numerous people who can score, and it would not surprise me to see someone else step up and be the leading scorer. We’ve got a lot of kids who can score and we share the ball real well, and I think that’s the good thing about our team.”
The win followed losses on back-to-back days, 73-52 to Smith County (Tenn.) on Friday and 60-57 to Johnson Central (Ky.) on Thursday. Going into the tourney, Brown was eager to pit his team against good competition in its final tuneup before Region 7-4A play starts in January.
“We got exactly what we wanted,” he said. “We were in a close ballgame, which we needed to be — although we didn’t win — and we got our tails kicked yesterday, which we needed. And we also won a game, so we kind of got everything we needed to be ready for region play in the new year after playing some really good competition for three days.”
• Three Northwest wrestlers placed in what was a typically tough McCallie Invitational in Chattanooga, with Bryan Gembe (106 pounds) and Austin Taylor (160) taking fourth and Blake Hayes (113) finishing sixth.
The Bruins’ lineup wasn’t full because of injuries — coach Allen Tucker said his team finished “15th or 16th” in the 22-team field, which was won by Chattanooga’s Baylor — and several wrestlers were at less than 100 percent as they competed at a lower weight class for the first time this season. But he was proud of those who were able to place.
“We had a bad first day, but the second day we wrestled like we should,” Tucker said. “... They all wrestled well. We’ve got two dual tournaments coming up and we’re trying to get in our weight classes and see what we’ve got. We’ve had a good duals season — we’re 15-5 — and we’re about to get down to where we need to be. We’re trying to get ready for (Area 7-4A duals), so we’ve got to get people healed up.”
There were three matchups in Saturday’s finals in which one state champion competed against another, Tucker said.
“I beat my kids up (with a tough schedule), but the only way you can get good is to wrestled good competition,” he said. “And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — if you can place at McCallie, you can place at state.”
• The North Georgia All-Stars lost to Central Georgia 47-21 Saturday in the DL Scott Coalition Bowl Senior All-Star games at the Georgia Dome.
Christian Heritage wide receiver Nich Bartley had a pair of catches and a touchdown, while Northwest Whitfield’s Tevin McDaniel had an interception. Northwest’s Andy Whisenant had a pair of catches as well, and linebackers Lyle Durham of Dalton and John Chastain of North Murray combined for seven tackles.
North Murray coach David Gann was the head coach of the North squad.