By PATRICK MacCOON
Going up against McMinn Central’s girls’ basketball program has posed quite a difficult task for competitors for quite some time.After all, the Johnny Morgan-led Chargerettes have …
Going up against McMinn Central’s girls’ basketball program has posed quite a difficult task for competitors for quite some time.
After all, the Johnny Morgan-led Chargerettes have appeared at the state tournament in 14 of the past 21 years, and won their past 12 straight regular season district titles.
A tough test was indeed what Walker Valley received in its regular season finale.
In the end, late heroics helped the Lady Mustangs complete a rare season sweep of the Class AA powerhouse with a 50-49, last-second victory at “The Stable” Monday night.
“We have a meeting every year at the start of the season and we talk about our seniors and what their job is,” WVHS head coach Paul Cretton said. “They are basically the answer to our problems and the gel of this team. All of our seniors and their families have meant so much to this program.”
Before a matchup against No. 5 seed McMinn County set for Thursday in the District 5-AAA quarterfinals, the host of the postseason tournament showed drive and focus in a come-from-behind victory.
With a knack for hitting big 3-pointers, senior guard Macey Clark extended her range from the field and came through late from the charity stripe to help her team improve to 15-9 overall.
Previously trailing by nine with 1:25 left in the third quarter, a 5-0 run in the final five seconds of the third period cut the Lady Mustangs deficit to just 37-35.
Soon after a Lauren Lay steal helped Abbey Davis drain a pair of free throws another forced turnover let Clark let one fly from a step past the right side of the scorer’s table.
Clark’s 30-plus foot swish, her only 3-pointer of the game, was all the confidence her sideline needed headed into the final eight minutes.
“Hitting that 3 was a big momentum shift,” Clark said. “After that we were excited and ready to finish strong. Shots started falling and things started going our way after that.”
WV sophomore guard Laney Harris’ trey with 5:13 left took a 42-41 lead, which was built to 49-43 with 3:14 left as Lay finished a tough basket under the hoop off an assist from Clark.
However, McMinn Central (17-10) fought right back with tight defense and with 14 seconds remaining a well-drawn up look resulted in a 3-point basket from Melia Baker to tie the game at 49-all.
In a crazy turn of events, the Chargerettes were able to swipe the ball away soon after near their own hoop, but missed the layup that fell into Clark’s hands.
With a defender trying to rip at the ball for a jump ball, Clark was accidentally fouled to send her to the line with 1.4 seconds left.
With poise from the charity stripe, Clark sunk her first freebie for the game-winning score.
McMinn Central gave a scare, however, as a pretty good 3-point look glanced off the right side of the rim at the final buzzer as they were surprisingly able to get off a shot with just 0.5 seconds left on the clock.
“I’ve been playing with these other seniors for almost 10 years and I love them all,” Clark said. “I don’t think we could have asked for a better Senior Night. I am extremely happy for our team. This is another great memory we will all share and it should give us momentum going into the postseason.”
Walker Valley was led in scoring by Lay, one of five seniors, who finished with 19 points and was 10-of-12 from the charity stripe.
The Lady Mustangs finished a season best 17-of-20 from the line to complete the season sweep, as they beat the Chargerettes on the road, 56-50, Jan. 9.
Senior forward Emily Anderson also provided tough post play, filling in nicely for injured teammate Haley Jones, as she recorded eight points and six rebounds. All of Anderson’s points came in the second half, while she and Davis combined to shoot 6-of-6 on free throws.
Davis scored eight points and had four assists, while fellow junior Macy Nipper netted a pair of buckets.
“We will really miss these seniors and their families,” Cretton said. “On and off the court, they have been great for us. They are going to go on and be successful in whatever they do. They are all going to college and going to make this program proud.”
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