It was tightly contested from the opening tip-off until the final buzzer on Friday night, but ultimately it was the Clarksville Lady Tigers who prevailed 41-38 against the Rivercrest Lady Rebels and continued their strong start to district play.
The tone was set early, as the two teams were neck-and-neck throughout much of the first quarter. The two teams stayed within a single possession of each other until the final 45 seconds of the period, when a pair of baskets by TyteAnna Rosser and Nini Owens — the latter coming right at the buzzer — gave Clarksville a 17-10 lead.
Despite finding themselves down seven headed into the second quarter, the Lady Rebels made it very clear they weren’t going to go down without a fight. Some stellar on-ball defense denied the Lady Tigers many open looks at the hoop, and some well-executed offensive sets helped them get right back into the game.
The Lady Rebels were also bolstered by strong rebounding — primarily on the offensive end. The team had several rebounds that led directly to putbacks, or kickouts for extended possessions.
“(Rebounding) is definitely something we put an emphasis on,” Lady Rebel Lauren Hardman said, who finished with eight boards. “We work on boxing out, and on going up with two hands to grab it rather than just one hand to tip it out.”
Lady Rebel Anna Duvall tied the game at 21 with a free throw — the first time the score had been tied since it was 7-7 midway through the first — and then Selena Kelley gave Rivercrest its second lead of the game when she drove down the baseline and scored on an impressive floater.
Headed into the locker room at halftime, the Lady Rebels clung to a slim 24-23 lead.
That lead would not last long, though. Lady Tiger Jalaya Stephens gave Clarksville the lead back on a nice post move early in the third quarter and then Rosser promptly added to it with a fast break score on the tail end of a steal.
“We just stayed positive and didn’t get down (after falling behind in the second quarter),” Rosser said.
“We also started communicating better with each other, which made things go a lot better,” Lady Tiger Madison Gill said.
Gill — Clarksville’s leading scorer on the season — was back on the court for her team for the first time in roughly two weeks, and she scored seven points in her return.
“I could definitely tell I was a bit rusty and my shot was off, but it still felt really good to be out there with my teammates again,” she said with a smile.
“She brings a great offensive presence,” Clarksville head coach LaTisha Hearne said of Gill. “And then on defense, she has great awareness and makes an impact there as well.”
Stephens scored four points in Clarksville’s big third quarter, but made her presence felt in other ways too. She drew a big charge midway through the quarter, and would draw another late in the fourth with the game very much still hanging in the balance.
By the end of the third, Clarksville once again led by seven, 38-31.
Once again, though, Rivercrest demonstrated that it would bend but not break. Lady Rebel Anna Guest hit a long jumpshot early in the final quarter, again the result of an offensive rebound. After that, strong defense by both teams prevented any scoring for several minutes.
Gill, along with Ashley Rosser, helped pad Clarksville’s lead with some clutch free throws late in the quarter.
“We just had to focus and block everything else out,” Gill said. “We knew we needed to get those for our team.”
Hardman closed the gap to just three points with just 46 seconds left in the game, when she put the ball back up after yet another offensive rebound.
After that, though, neither team would score again, and Clarksville came away with the incredibly hard-fought win.
TyteAnna Rosser led the way for Clarksville with 16 points. Gill’s seven was second most on the team. Stephens finished with six, Ashley Rosser had five, Nini Owens scored four and Mariela Resendiz finished with three.
On the Lady Rebels, Hardman led the team with 13 points. Logan Huddleston and Selena Kelley scored six apiece, with Huddleston adding a jaw-dropping 10 steals. Alexis Case scored five, Duvall had four and Guest and Reagan Blagg each finished with two points.
For Rivercrest, head coach Justin Milton said he’s impressed with what he saw, despite the game ultimately not falling their way.
“We’ve really begun putting things together over the last three weeks,” Milton said. “Each game we get a little better, and I’m incredibly proud of how we fought today.”
For Clarksville, the win brings them to an impressive 4-1 in district play, as the team continues to rack up wins against its district rivals.
“It all started on the defensive end,” Hearne said. “We came out and worked for it and stayed focused.”