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For more than 17 minutes Saturday, the Oliver Springs Lady Bobcats looked dead in the water in the TMSAA Area 4-AA Championship Game against Wartburg.
Luckily for Jennifer Chaston’s squad, the game lasted 24 minutes because the final seven minutes of play would see the Lady ’Cats using a 17-1 run to rally from seven points down and defeat the Lady Bulldogs, 25-16.
“The girls just wanted it so bad,” Lady ’Cat head coach Jennifer Chaston said following the victory. “This has been our goal all year, to win here and to win in Pigeon Forge (TMSAA East Tennessee Sectional Tournament). This is such a good group of girls and I’m proud of them.”
Most people didn’t know what to expect entering Saturday’s contest. The teams had split their two games during the regular season with the winning team putting up a lot of points on its way to an easy win.
Saturday’s title game was different, however, as points were hard to come by.
In the first quarter, neither team gained much of an advantage as Oliver Springs led 7-5 after six minutes of play. The second quarter was a defensive standoff with Wartburg winning the frame 3-1 to pull into an 8-8 tie at halftime.
The third quarter began horribly for the Lady ’Cats. Wartburg used four points from Haylee Luttrell to spark a 7-0 run that gave the Lady Bulldogs a 15-8 lead with 3:49 left in the third period.
It seemed those 15 points might be enough to claim victory. Heading into the final minute of the third period, Oliver Springs had scored just one point since the first quarter.
That all changed when Jill Crass scored from in close with 25 seconds left in the frame then Ashley Armstrong scored just before the buzzer to pull Oliver Springs within three points at 15-12 entering the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter belonged to the purple and gold. Oliver Springs pulled even on a pair of free throws from Kinley Green and took a 17-15 when Lindsay Buck pulled down a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a basket with 3:35 left to play.
The run didn’t stop there. Keeley McDonald hit a free throw, Morgan Hackworth put in a basket then Green delivered the dagger when she hit a 3-pointer with 2:08 remaining to cap a 15-0 run and give the Lady ’Cats a 23-15 lead.
Wartburg snapped their 8:32 scoring drought when Madison Holler hit a free throw with 1:17 left to play, but that was it as Oliver Springs went on to the 9-point victory.
Oliver Springs used a balanced attack to pick up the victory as seven players scored on the day. Green led the pack with five points while Taylor Bradshaw pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
Luttrell led Wartburg with seven points and six rebounds.
Both teams now turn their attention to the TMSAA East Tennessee AA Sectional Tournament that starts Saturday in Pigeon Forge. Wartburg will play in Saturday’s opening round while the Lady ’Cats received a first round bye and not play until Wednesday, Feb. 5.
“It’s huge,” Chaston said of the bye. “We get a few extra days and that will help because one of our girls (Brooklyn Jones) was injured today so that extra time should help. It will also give us a chance to scout the competition.”
Wartburg (16) Farmer 3, Luttrell 7, Holley 1, Poland 3, Jones 2.
Oliver Springs (25) McDonald 4, Buck 2, Green 5, Bradshaw 2, Armstrong 4, Hackworth 4, Crass 4.