BLOUNTVILLE — A win-or-go-home scenario faced Happy Valley on Thursday afternoon in the Area 1-AA tournament at Blountville Middle School, and the Lady Jr. Warriors responded with a strong second half and a 45-35 victory over Bluff City.
The win gave HVMS third place in the region and sends the Lady Warriors on to the sectional round at the end of the week.
The Lady Warriors were strong on the boards, with Kaylee Johnson and Jamie Lee Clark dominating with a combined 17 rebounds — seven off the offensive glass — as HVMS pulled away in the third and fourth quarters.
“I think nerves played into a slow start,” said Warriors coach Dana Hill. “This is a big game in that if you win you keep playing, but if you lose you go home. We knew what was on the line. We had a good run in the second half, and in the fourth quarter they really opened the game up.”
The Lady Grizzlies forced 11 first-half turnovers from the Warriors and trailed by 21-20 at the break. Bluff City was able to get several layup opportunities off steals and guard Brandy Watkins led the way with a dozen first-half points.
“The girls played a great first half,” said Lady Grizzlies coach Mary Duncan. “They played as a team and we were right in it. Happy Valley played a great second half and took momentum away from us with several layups and fast break baskets.”
Watkins hit three treys in the contest en route to a game-high 20 points, including a near half-court shot at the buzzer to close the third period and get the Grizzlies within 31-26 going into the final stanza.
Johnson opened the fourth quarter for Happy Valley with a pair of baskets inside to give the Warriors a 35-26 lead before Watkins stopped the bleeding for Bluff City with a deuce.
Johnson netted another bucket and guard Emily Whitaker dropped in a bucket as well as HVMS led 39-28 with 3:46 left in regulation. After a timeout Clark and Whitaker continued the run for HVMS with a basket each as the Warriors extended to a 43-28 lead.
“Kaylee and Jamie Lee really did a good job on the boards,” Hill said. “That really set the tone the whole way. One shot was all they were getting. Emily Whitaker did a good job for us against 22 (Watkins). We just manned her up on 22 and she did a great job there beginning in the fourth quarter and kind of shut her down.”
Johnson and Clark each had 12 points for HVMS to lead the way while
Whitaker had eight, and Sydney Puckett and Kennedy Richardson each tallied four. Johnson finished with nine boards and Clark had eight while Mackenzie Davis was also strong on the boards with six rebounds.
For Bluff City, Tatum Gouge had six points and Karrah Johnson had four to back Watkins’ effort.
The Lady Warriors will play next on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Pigeon Forge Middle School as the sectional round begins.