Not so in 2017, but the No. 3-seed Lady Bears and No. 4 Lady Wildcats moved into Monday’s final as Mt. Juliet turned back No. 2 Lebanon 57-51 and, in a bizarre game in which neither team could get going offensively most of the night, Wilson Central stunned top-seeded Beech 29-25.
Mt. Juliet and Central will meet at 8 p.m. Monday for the championship and play host to first-round Region 5-AAA tournament games at 7 p.m. Friday against Kenwood or Clarksville. Lebanon and Beech will battle for third place at 6:30 p.m. and travel to Henry County or Rossview on Friday.
The Mt. Juliet/Lebanon game followed the regular-season script in which the Lady Bears built an early lead only to watch the Devilettes battle back. Only instead of Lebanon winning in overtime, Mt. Juliet rewrote the end of the script after Lindsey Freeman’s putback drew the Devilettes within 53-51. Emma Palmer scored a layup and a free throw as MJ advanced with an 18-8 record while LHS slipped to 20-10.
The Lady Bears led 17-10 following the first quarter, 30-20 at halftime and 40-37 through three periods. Lebanon never caught Mt. Juliet despite six points apiece by Freeman and Christaney Brookshire and five by Maleigha Oldham during the third quarter.
Shelby Petty pumped in a pair of fourth-quarter three-pointers as she knocked down nine points and Palmer eight to keep Mt. Juliet in front.
Palmer led the Lady Bears with 20 points while Petty’s 17 included four threes. Tondrianna Davis dropped in a pair of treys as she added eight. Ryleigh Osborne also sank two from downtown as she and Nevaeh Majors each scored six. Palmer also pulled down seven rebounds while Petty passed for seven assists.
Freeman fired in 15 points for Lebanon while Brookshire scored 10 of her 13 in the second half and Oldham hit a pair of threes on her way to 10. Jakeshia James added a late first-half spark as the Devilettes scored the last six points of the second period. She finished with five points while Anne Marie Heidebreicht and Alissa Mulaski each threw in a three and Aaryn Grace Lester two.
Wilson Central and Beech were in a 2-2 battle midway through the second quarter before the Lady Buccaneers, behind Mia Dean’s 10 points, opened a 12-5 halftime lead.
But Nicole Brill found the basket for eight points during the third quarter, putting Wilson Central in front on a pullup jumper from the baseline for a 17-16 edge with 45 seconds left Two free throws by Jana Claire Swafford swung the lead back to Beech 18-17 going into the fourth.
But what the game lacked in offensive execution was offset by the fourth-quarter drama as the Lady Wildcats may have reminded people they are the two-time defending district tournament champions. A drive and dish by Sydnee Richetto led to a Jasmin Angel basket for a 19-18 Lady ‘Cat edge 16 seconds into the fourth.
It took another five minutes-plus before Shyia Hoosier’s runner off the glass put Beech back in front, Brill’s putback gave Central the lead to stay 21-20. The Lady Wildcats extended the margin as Brill scored another six to finish with a game-high 14 points.
Angel added six, including a first-quarter basket, while Julia Maki made four free throws including two with 36.5 seconds left. Richetto threw in three and Taylor Tucker two late foul shots as Central improved to 19-10.
Hoosier had 11 to lead the Lady Bucs, who fell to 22-8.