BY JEFF BIRCHFIELD, Johnson City Press
ELIZABETHTON — Grainger ended the first half on a flurry and ended Elizabethton's strong postseason run in the Region 1-AA girls basketball semifinals at Happy Valley High School.
Scoring seven points in the last 30 seconds of the first half, the Lady Grizzlies pulled ahead by three at the halftime. They scored the first five of the second half on their way to a 50-42 victory.
Kaylen Shell had 19 points and Morgan Headrick had 15 to lead the Lady Cyclones, who captured the District 1-AA championship a week earlier and breezed in their quarterfinal matchup.
"A lot of people didn't expect us to be in this game or even to be in the game," Elizabethton coach Lucas Andrews said. "I credit my seniors for that. Any other team would have laid down and quit, but they never quit."
Grainger will meet South Greene, a 76-51 winner over Sullivan South, in Wednesday's championship game at 7:30 p.m.
Elizabethton was aggressive in the first half, driving to the basket, and leading 9-5 at the end of the first quarter, and holding a 15-13 advantage before the late second-quarter outburst.
"They're too good of a team to let that happen," Andrews said. "We got in some foul trouble. I had to bring some players off the floor and we didn't get set up in the press offense. We were able to come back and keep chipping at the lead to get close. They were just very good with the lead in the second half."
Tori Rutherford paced Grainger with 18 points. Lauren Longmire scored 11 and Manny Tanner totaled 10.
South Greene 76, Sullivan South 51
With the score tied at 24, South Greene went on a 15-1 run late in the second quarter to pull away from Sullivan South in the battle of the Lady Rebels.
Braylen Wykle scored 31 points to lead South Greene, which pushed the lead to 15 points at the end of the third quarter. Kiley Collins contributed 11 points for the victors and Ashlyn Reaves netted nine.
"Meredith (St. Clair) got her third foul and they got on a run," South coach Terry Hutson said. "They got up by 14 and we cut it to 11. It mushroomed out from there, but they're a good ball team. We got beat by a better team tonight."
Alex Harris hit four shots behind the 3-point line to lead South with 13 points. Mollie Leslie followed with 12 points. It was the final game for five seniors, Carissa Comsa, Rachel Yates, Leslie, St. Clair and Halle Dykes, who was injured, but served as a bookkeeper for the game.
"I hate it for the five seniors," Hutson said. "They played their hearts out. They've been with this program when it was 3-24 to what it is the last two years with 42 wins.
"It's a good time to be playing our best basketball. We said in January after Happy Valley beat us at home that we had to win out. The girls took it as a personal challenge and they won out. My hat’s off to them."
Grainger 50, Elizabethton 42
Tanner 10, Rutherford 18, Maloney 4, Stratton 2, Hardin 1, Hodge 5, Longmire 11.
Townsend 4, Headrick 15, Shell 19, VanHuss 2, Roberts 2
Grainger 5 15 15 15 — 50
Elizabethton 9 8 14 11 — 42
3-point goals—Grainger 1 (Hodge), Elizabethton 2 (Headrick, Shell)
South Greene 76, Sullivan South 51
SULLIVAN SOUTH (20-12)
Coughlin 2, Littleton 1, Yates 4, Leslie 12, St. Clair 2, Harris 10, Compton 2, Nelson 4, Comsa 5, Troutman 6
SOUTH GREENE (26-4)
Kells 6, Williams 6, Wykle 31, Reaves 9, Collins 11, Franklin 7, Merriweather 6
Sullivan South 8 20 7 15 — 51
South Greene 12 27 12 25 — 76
3-point goals—Sullivan South 5 (Harris 4, Leslie), South Greene 9 (Wykle 3, Collins 3, Kells 2, Reaves).