Lady T’s upset G-P with youthful abandon in OT
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
STRAWBERRY PLAINS — Sometimes the whistle really is your friend.
With Katie Stubblefield and Kayla Newman relegated to the bench Monday night in the Region 2-AA semifinals, Alcoa was left with Tiffanie Moore as the only Lady T with two years of high school completed, but the Tornadoes had been in this situation before and those youngsters have grown up quickly.
Freshman Hannah Troutt swished back-to-back 3-pointers to finish erasing an 11-point deficit then drove the right side of the lane in overtime for the game-winning score to extend Alcoa’s season at least two more games, end District 3-AA champ Gatlinburg-Pittman’s year and set the Lady T’s for one more shot at rival CAK.
“Unbelievable poise from a freshman, she stepped up and was just as determined to win this ball game, you can see it in every possession she had that’s what she intended to do,” a jubilant Alcoa coach Tonia Johnson managed to rasp out with what was left of her voice following the marathon semifinal at Carter High School. “The experience these freshman have had has been immeasurable throughout this year, these freshmen have been put in difficult situations. They didn’t waiver tonight.”
After a fall away jumper from Moore gave Alcoa the 64-63 lead in a back-and-forth overtime, G-P got a grip on its free-throw shooting and Haris Price hit both tosses for the last of her game-high 25 with 9 seconds left. Alcoa set up and caught G-P looking for Troutt to step back and shoot rather than slash into the right side of the lane for a bucket off the glass with what was determined by the officials to be 1.5 seconds left.
Gatlinburg’s desperation try never reached a friendly hand as Cassidy Anderson stole the long inbounds away and held it long enough for the buzzer to sound.
“They bought into it and they played every single possession,” Johnson said. “I can’t speak highly enough of their intensity and tenacity and the way they approached the game.”
The Lady Highlanders, under the direction of Maryville College alum Katie Parton, were on the verge of closing out the contest their way after Hunter Price dropped in the last G-P’s three threes for a 48-37 fourth-quarter lead. But a funny thing happened on the way to the finals as three Lady Highlanders combined to go 1-for-5 at the free throw line and Alcoa regained its feet.
Newman took a sweet handoff from Hannah Tate for a layup and Stubblefield rewarded Newman’s length of the court outlet pass from a G-P miss with a spin and bucket in transition as Alcoa started to chip away at the advantage.
Newman fouled out but Moore won out a bizarre possession with 1:05 to play with a putback following two missed Lady T 3-point attempts, cutting G-P’s lead to 54-51 and setting the stage for the freshman shooter.
Troutt knocked down her first trey with 49 seconds left to cut it to 1 and after a pair of free throws from Karsen Sims replied with a game-tying bomb beyond the arc with 20 seconds left in regulation. Alcoa’s other freshman guard — Tara Shields — made her best statement a defensive one, stealing away G-P’s attempt for the win at the buzzer.
“We don’t ever give up,” Johnson said of her scrappy bunch that has relied on pressure defense due its lack of size all season long. “They just don’t stop until that buzzer sounds.”
Shields served as the Alcoa sword early, knocking down five 3-pointers that kept cutting short G-P’s attempts to muscle the game away on the inside. The freshman finished with 16 to go with Troutt’s 10 while Stubblefield led the way with 19 and Moore added 13.
Karsen Sims finished with 18 for G-P to compliment a combined 33 from the Price sisters as Hunter Price finished with 8.
Alcoa makes it an all District 4-AA affair in Wednesday’s regional title game, taking on Christian Academy of Knoxville — a 54-47 winner over Fulton in the early semifinal.