GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — The Claiborne Lady Bulldogs are moving on to the semifinals of the District 2-AA Tournament for the first time since 2009 after Saturday’s 59-55 first round win over West Greene.
“This is my third year and the last two we’ve had some close ones and lost them. Our goal was to finish fourth or higher in the district and to win a game in the district tournament,” Lady Bulldog coach Misty Cook said. “They’ve done it and it means everything to these girls.”
It didn’t come easy. Claiborne built a 42-29 lead through three quarters but the game was far from over. Kristen Johnson scored 12 of her 19 points in the final period as the Lady Buffaloes came roaring back.
Johnson’s 3-pointer with 23 seconds to play capped a 26-13 run and tied the game at 55.
Lady Bulldog Brooke Walker was fouled in the backcourt and hit both ends of the bonus with 17 seconds to go. West Greene’s late shot to tie came up short and Claiborne’s Dakotah Turner secured the rebound. She was fouled with two seconds to play and hit both free throws to seal the win.
“We got into some pressure situations there in the fourth quarter. My senior Haley Bolden stepped up and handled it. We got Brooke Walker and Dakotah Turner on the line for some major free throws that we had to have and they made them,” Cook said. “Overall, I’m just proud of this team. We are a team.”
Turner led all scorers in the game with 25 points. Lora Bunch added 14 points for the Lady Bulldogs and Sydney Honeycutt provided a spark off the bench with seven points.
West Greene was led by Johnson’s 19 points. They also got 12 from Haley Vradenburgh, ten from Candy Majors and seven from Hannah Julian.
The Lady Buffs led in the early going and were up 14-13 after one quarter behind five points from Johnson and four each from Vradenburgh and Majors.
Honeycutt hit one 3-pointer in the first period and hit another in the second as the Lady Bulldogs vaulted into the lead. Turner scored eight of her points in the first half and Bunch added six as Claiborne took a 28-21 edge into halftime.
“We set out with an up-tempo game plan and they stuck with it. They carried it out like we wanted, defensively, and we knew that defense would win the game,” Cook said.
Turner dominated the third quarter in the low post. The Lady Bulldogs went to her repeatedly in the paint and she put in ten points in the period. Bunch tacked on four and the lead grew to 13 after three.
Turner also played a big role in the fourth quarter in helping the Lady Bulldogs deal with the West Greene press as the game got tight.
“Dakotah is our go-to player and she plays hard on both defense and offense. Haley Bolden and her work well together,” Cook added. “In the fourth quarter they went to that 1-2-2 trap and we brought her up in the middle to relieve the pressure. She’s an easy target to throw to and she’ll catch it. I’m proud of her.”
Claiborne held off that Lady Buff stampede late to pull out the four-point win.
West Greene ends the season with a record of 6-21. Claiborne (9-18) advances to play top seeded Grainger in the semifinals on Monday at 7 p.m.
“We had them at halftime the last time we played them and now we’re going for the whole thing,” Cook said. “We’re going after the number one team and I think we’re capable of it.”
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WEST GREENE (55) — Kristen Johnson 19, Haley Vradenburgh 12, Candy Majors 10, Hannah Julian 7, Baylee Jerrell 0, Kaylee Valentine 5, Erica Reynolds 2, Jada Hensley 0.
CLAIBORNE (59) — Dakotah Turner 25, Lora Bunch 14, Haley Bolden 5, Brooke Walker 4, Laken Pinkerman 2, Sydney Honeycutt 7, Syann Buis 2.