By Mark Darnell
This week the Macon County High School Tigerettes went back to the Glass House for the TSSAA State Championship. They won a silver ball, finishing second, but they deserved so much more.
The march began on Thursday March 8th against District 9 and Region 5 champs Cheatham County. The Tigerettes came out ready to play. Kyndal Bullington and Keeley Carter had the game tied 6-6 and that was as close as the Lady Cubs would ever get. The Tigerettes went on a 14-0 run mid-way thru the opening period and took the game over to lead 29-17 after the first quarter.
Cheatham was game. The Tigerettes went on a 3 minute drought midway thru the 2nd and committed a few turnovers. The lady Cubs were able to cut it to 27-35 However a big three pointer by McKaylee Mix and four free throws by Carter stretched the lead back out to 42-29 at the break.
The Tigerettes just seemed to pull away in the second half and the game was just never close. The Tigerette lead hovered around 20 the entire 4th quarter before Macon won by a final score of 75-55.
Scoring was: Jalynn Gregory 11, Jamie Ashburn 8, Abby Shoulders 6, Keeley Carter 26, Kyndal Bullington 12, McKaylee Mix 8, Emily Ashburn 1, and Marah King 3. Taylor Ward and Graci Scott played but did not score. Macon shot 21 0f 41 (51%) from the field and were 7 of 14(50%) from behind the arc. They were also 26 of 30 (87%) from the charity stripe. The Cheatham win was the first state tournament win in Coach Larry White’s 41 year coaching career.
Next up in the draw was top ten ranked Westview out of District 13 near Martin, TN. The Lady Chargers had something Macon hadn’t seen this year in two big posts about 6’2”. This would require something a little different. The Tigerette guards definitely weren’t able to drive and create contact. In the final minute trailing by one, Gregory hit a big 3 pointer to give Macon an 11-9 lead after the 1st quarter.
With 6:21 left in the half Westview’s center Graves went out with an ankle injury. The switch seemed to flip and the Tigerettes were able to drive on their other big girl and get to the free throw line. With one of their twin towers limping and the other now saddled with 4 fouls. Macon pushed their lead out to 23-12 at the break.
Both teams had a sloppy first four minutes of the third quarter. In one minute Carter and Gregory pushed the Macon lead out to 30-15. Then the Tigerettes went scoreless for the last 3:56 of the 3rd. Headed into the final period Macon led 30-20.
Macon would go scoreless for another 2 minutes to start the 4th. With under 1:30 left in the game and nursing a 33-30 lead Abby Shoulders would calmly go 4 of 4 from the line to ice this game. Tigerettes win 37-32 in an extremely defensive game.
Scoring was: Gregory 16, Shoulders 5, Carter 11, Bullington 2, and Mix 3. Jamie Ashburn, Ward, and King all played but did not score. Macon was 10 of 30 (33%) shooting, 3 of 10(30%) behind the arc, and 14 of 21(66%) from the free throw line.
Coach White remarked, “We had such a great defensive effort tonight and our young team was able to withstand their run in the 2nd half. I also thought it was big that we didn’t have a single turnover in the first half.”
The championship game pitted the Tigerettes against their old 8AA foe Upperman, who had defeated Macon twice in the regular season, the 8AA finals, and the Region 4 finals. On a special note the MCHS band was selected to play the national anthem before the championship game and did an outstanding job.
Coach White had an interesting plan to double two time Ms Basketball Akira Levy, play man on the other Lady Bee guards and let Bullington play a lose zone on the other two lady Bees. It seemed to be very effective in the first quarter as the Tigerettes jumped out to a 7-0 lead. However some Macon turnovers and the Lady Bees soon righted the ship. After another scoreless 3 minutes Mix hit another big 3 inside a minute to give Macon a 10-6 lead after one.
Both teams traded possessions and scoring was at a premium to begin the 2nd period. Macon would score the last three points and head to the locker-room with a 19-16 lead in a very, very physical game.
Now make no mistake Upperman isn’t the defending state champions and currently undefeated for no reason. They came back in the 3rd quarter on a mission. It wasn’t so much what Macon didn’t do, but what Upperman did do. The Lady Bees made the plays to grab a seven point lead 34-27 heading into the championship quarter.
Upperman pushed the lead to 9 with their first possession of the 4th but Macon wasn’t ready to go home. Gregory scored 5 points in short succession and Carter hit a 3 midway thru the quarter to cut the lead to 3. Upperman would push back out to 5. Trailing by 2 at the 2 minute mark Shoulders would tie the game with two free throws. Upperman’s Levy would take the lead back to 5 with 1:31 left. Cater and Ashburn would tie the game back up 53-53 with 0:34 left. Levy would again hit 1 of 2 from the line to lead 54-53 with 13 seconds left. Macon came down and missed two shots and was fouled with less than a second and a chance to go to the line to hit two out of three shots for a gold ball.
Now let me pause here a minute. Any fan always wants the game to be decided on the court. Well that isn’t what happened. The officials made a series of terrible decisions in the final possession, got the total number of foul shots that Macon was due mixed up, and let the Upperman coach rant and rave and were totally intimidated by her. I cannot see how this trio of officials was one of the three best officiating crews in TN this year.
Shoulders hit one of her first two to tie the game and then the officials took another pause to figure out just how many free throws Macon was due. Once again the Upperman coach caused another stir and pause in the game. Shoulders missed her third shot and we were headed to overtime. Make no mistake we wouldn’t have been where we were without Shoulders defensive effort and free throws from the night before, so she has nothing to hang her head about.
In the overtime Carter and Levy traded blows like two prize fighters. Carter scored all eight of Macon’s points and Levy scored eight of Upperman’s ten including the final shot of the game, which went in. Final score Upperman 64 Macon County 62 in a game neither team deserved to lose.
Scoring was: Gregory 13, Ashburn 3, Shoulders 8, Carter 32, Bullington 1, King 2, and Mix 3. Macon shot 19 of 54(35%, 6 of 18(33%) from behind the arc, and 18 of 23(78%) from the free throw line. Carter, Bullington and Gregory were named to the All-Tournament team.
“Our kids have done everything we have asked of them, they are just so great,” remarked Coach Larry White. “I cannot say enough about our army of blue. I’m so proud of the band, our cheerleaders, our terrific AD Beverly Shoulders, and we cannot thank our community enough for their support.” When asked about the future and possibility of a return trip, even if it’s against the Lady Bees, Coach White said “I’m gonna put my money on us- we’re gonna get our just days.”
The Tigerettes get their third silver ball in the past 7 years and post a terrific 30 win season. They gave it their all, and then some, and true-blue Tigerette fans are grateful for another wonderful season.
Photos by Julie Collins