Walker Valley (1-2) connected on nine shots from beyond the arc and knocked down several freebies in the final moments of the game to hold off the Rhea County Lady Eagles (1-3) Monday night in a back-and-forth affair at The Stable in Cleveland, 66-64.
Abbey Davis was a thorn in Rhea County’s side in the setback as the only returning starter from last year’s squad galloped her way to 25 points. She was 11-for-17 at the line including six freebies in the final 90 seconds of regulation to secure the win.
The ladies hit the locker room knotted up at 31-31 after a late basket by Rhea’s Maddie Smith, which capped a first half that saw 10 lead changes and eight ties. The Lady ‘Stangs enjoyed a bit of separation in the third canto outscoring the locals, 22-10.
Rhea wouldn’t go away quietly in the fourth quarter though and a trio of crucial three pointers from Maddie Taylor (2) and freshman Emma Gentry (1) kept things interesting in the game’s final moments. WV was ahead 66-59 with just under 20 seconds remaining but a Taylor long ball, steal and two-point bucket at the buzzer from Maddie Smith wasn’t enough to complete the rally.
Despite the outcome, Lady Eagle head coach Darvin Gill was upbeat and feels good about where the team is now. He believes if they continue to trust the process, they’ll be battled tested and in a better position for district play.
“I think the team is still in the right frame of mind and I’m happy about where we’re at. We’ve shown some strides defensively and tonight we were able to do some things offensively,” offered Gill.
Rhea’s Haley Cameron was missing in action Monday night after injuring her ankle against Maryville in the Hall of Fame tourney at Cleveland High School as Emma Gentry filled in the vacant starting spot against the Lady Mustangs.
“We knew coming in this was going to be a tough match up for us. I thought we had a few freshmen to again step up and rebound, make plays. Some of my girls are playing a lot of minutes right now because of our depth issue so that is something I just have to be mindful of as a coach, “Gill said.
While the game was one Rhea wished it could have back, there was a silver lining as junior Mallory Hampton, who led all scorers with 27 points, joined the 1,000-point club. Last year’s district player of the year currently sits in the record books at 1,003 points with nearly two full seasons left in Evensville.
“Mallory is a very skilled offensive player and is probably as skilled of a player at the high school level that I’ve had the pleasure to coach. To reach that mark just four games into her junior year is a major accomplishment and I’m very proud of her,” Gill said.
On Saturday, Rhea County went 1-1 at the Hall of Fame tourney at Cleveland High School. The locals dropped their first game of the day to Maryville, 52-38. They rallied back for the season’s first victory over Ensworth later that evening, 58-35.
Hampton’s game-leading 20 points wasn’t enough against the Lady Rebels as Rhea County again struggled through a few scoring droughts down the stretch as they were outscored 32-19 in the second half. Courtney Carruthers led the Lady Rebels with 12 points and Lindsey Taylor supplied 11 more markers in the Maryville win.
In the second game, Rhea County bounced back with a solid 23-point rout over the Lady Tigers from Nashville. Hampton’s 23 paced the Lady Eagles while Macy Welch and Maddie Taylor provided 10 points each. Additionally, freshman Emma Gentry filled in nicely for an injured Haley Cameron.
Rhea County turned up the heat defensively to tame the Lady Tigers holding them to just seven and three points in the second and fourth quarters while producing 22 and 21 points, respectively in those frames. Ensworth’s Kaiya Wynn directed the Tigers offensively with 15 points and Dontavia Waggoner scored nine points in the loss.
The Lady Eagles will return to action on Saturday at the Mitch Wilson Thanksgiving Classic at Woodbury where they’ll face Riverdale at 6 p.m. locally (7 p.m. EST). On Tuesday, they remain on the road at East Hamilton and Thursday will have Gill’s squad battling at Sale Creek. Both of those contests will tip off at 6 p.m.
RHEA (38) Hampton 20, Cameron 9, Smith 6, Welch 3,
MARYVILLE (52) Carruthers 12, Taylor 11, Cunningham 9, Ervin 8, Fritz 8, Allocco 2, Midkiff 2.
RHEA (58) Hampton 23, Taylor 10, Welch 10, Gentry 9, Smith 4, Davis 2.
ENSWORTH (35) Wynn 15, Waggoner, 9, Collier 4, Woods 4, Whitson 3.
RHEA (64) Hampton 27, Taylor 11, Gentry 8, Smith 8, Welch 7, Jenkins 3
WALKER VALLEY (66) Davis 25, Baker 12, Fowler 10, Harris 8, Gibson 4, Bentley 3, Roberts 2, Rue 2.
Christopher Hall can be reached at email@example.com