The Creek Wood Lady Red Hawks overpowered Dyersburg on Thursday night, but Knoxville-Fulton took out Cannon County in the prior game. The Lady Falcons used physical defense and strong post play to make the night unpleasant for the Lionettes from nearby Woodbury, setting up an interesting test for Friday night’s semi-finals. Creek Wood, a veteran heavy, deep team of solid shooters and disciplined defenders, facing Fulton, a short bench stocked with physical bruisers and a mix of youth and experience, for a spot in the State Championship Game on Saturday.
Friday night’s game did not disappoint, though the final score left a lot to be desired for Creek Wood fans as the Lady Red Hawks came up 4 points short in a 45-41 overtime rumble in the Murphy Center.
Creek Wood had little trouble in the early going, breezing to a 6-0 lead before a pair of Fulton treys tied the game. The Lady Falcons would make it an 8-0 run before the first quarter was up, and ended the physical first quarter up 8-6. Rachel Bell would heat up for Creek Wood in the second quarter after Fulton extended the lead, and a 14-13 Lady Red Hawk frame would trim a double figure lead to just 21-20 Lady Falcons at the half. Bell would head to the locker room with 12 points while Bailee Anthony and Brittany Gosnell would each have threes and Brianna Spicer added 2 points for CWHS.
Creek Wood found more rhythm in the third, and a 10-6 quarter gave them the 30-26 lead after three in a game where nearly every Lady Red Hawk fan, coach, parent, and even player was calling for more fouls against the physical Fulton bunch. The Lady Falcons surged to an 8-1 run to start the otherwise slow and tactical fourth up 35-31, but Creek Wood answered back once again. The Lady Red Hawks tied the game at 35-35 and got the ball back with 1:30 left, and were content to pass the ball around and look for the late shot for as long as Fulton would let them. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Lady Falcons didn’t force anything, so a Bell right-wing buzzer-beater clanked off the front rim, and the game went into overtime.
In the extra frame, Fulton simply found ways to score, and when the Lady Red Hawks answered they were trading two point buckets for Fulton threes. In OT Fulton was 3 for 3 from the floor and 2 for 2 from long range, while Creek Wood shot just 3 of 8 including 0 for 1 from the perimeter. The aggressive Lady Falcon zone kept the Lady Red Hawks from finding the open shots from the perimeter, so it was up to Bell to work her magic inside, but down two scores with 11 seconds left, the magic ran out on a record season for Creek Wood, and Fulton held on for the 45-41 overtime win.
Bell, the senior and Vanderbilt signee, was named MVP with 25 points and 9 rebounds. Leah Grubb added 8 second half points on 2 of 4 three point shooting over the final 16 minutes of play, and pulled down 4 rebounds each half. Anthony and Gosnell each added 3 points while Spicer had 2. McKenzie Haislip played an excellent game defensively despite three early fouls, finishing with 2 steals and an offensive rebound despite a poor shooting night. Sophomore McKenzie Broadway rounded out the Creek Wood stats, struggling at times defensively against the strong but quick Lady Falcons but registering 2 assists and a steal in limited minutes.
Even in the loss, Creek Wood still allowed just 2 players to score in double figures, though one of them managed a double-double. KeKe McKinney, the stunning freshman post from Fulton’s semifinal game, managed just 5 points, but she also pulled down 10 rebounds and registered 3 blocks and an assist.
Fulton will face Elizabethton Saturday night at 6pm for the Class AA State Championship. Rachel Bell will be looking to pick up some hardware after that game as she is one of the three finalists for the Class AA Miss Basketball Award. It’s worth noting that Bell was the third finalist in a row for that award that Fulton ended the high school career of, as they took out Grainger to get to state and Cannon County in the semis, both alma maters of the other two senior finalists. The nation’s top team in girls’ basketball will look for its first state championship as Murfreesboro-Blackman opens play tomorrow in the AAA game against Ridgeway at 2pm, before Union City and Jackson County face off at 4pm, for the Single A Title.