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Lady Cougars survive OT battle, reach region semis

By JOHNNY WILSON, Sports Correspondent • Feb 29, 2020 at 2:48 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — In this win-or-go-home stage of the high school basketball season, the Sullivan Central girls are sure glad to put Lauren Bailey and her Greeneville teammates in the rearview mirror.

Central kept its magical season alive Friday despite the superb effort of Bailey, who gave it her all but couldn’t keep the Lady Cougars from nabbing a 69-61 overtime win in a Region 1-AA quarterfinal at the Dickie Warren Dome.

The Lady Cougars, who won for the 29th time in 32 outings, now must take the highway to meet Grainger (30-2) on its home floor in Monday night’s 7:30 semifinal, with the victor advancing to the sectional round.

SURVIVING THE FINISH

Central gets a shot at Grainger because the Lady Cougars were clutch in the extra session, scoring 11 of the game’s last 13 points after Greeneville had gained its only lead of the second half, 59-58, on two free throws by Bailey, a 5-foot-10 freshman whiz who scored 30 points after hitting 16 of 16 at the line.

See Cheryl Gray’s 📸📸 from the game

“No. 10 (Bailey) was tough,” Central coach Kristi Walling allowed. “We tried face-guarding her and she still got to the basket. She did a fantastic job.”

Down a point, Central got a major lift from Abbey Crawford and seized control.

The 6-2 senior first displayed her power by holding off her defender with a strong forearm and grabbing an offensive rebound, which she stuck back for a bucket and a subsequent three-point play upon getting fouled.

Then, after a Peyton Sams deflection produced a Greeneville turnover, Sams dropped a perfect feed to Crawford for a deuce and a 63-59 edge with 2:17 left.

“(Crawford) had gotten into a little bit of foul trouble but she came back big for us,” Walling said of her Wofford-bound star. “She came up big for us.”

Up by four, Central hit 6 of 8 free throws over the final 1:09 to hold off the Lady Greene Devils (19-14), the No. 3 seed out of District 2.

STOPPING THE BLEEDING

Central, the No. 2 seed out of District 1, led virtually the entire game, but Greeneville never lost touch.

Down 46-36 early in the fourth quarter, the Lady Greene Devils turned it up defensively and forced four straight turnovers, part of a 10-0 spurt that tied the game with 4:14 remaining in regulation.

“We called a timeout and told them to relax,” Walling said. “At that point I said that we were in the driver’s seat, to just value the basketball and take care of it.

“We made a little adjustment there in the end and went to a zone because No. 10 was killing us geting into the paint. So we adjusted it and just trusted our kids to get out on shooters, and they responded.”

Tied at 46, the game was back and forth from that point, but the Lady Cougars got it done — powered by Jaelyn West’s 21-point effort.

Sams scored 15 points, Macy McClellan added 13 and Crawford netted 10 to provide excellent support.

Avery Leming hit two of Central’s seven 3-pointers and West made three.

“Peyton did a good job there for us and Avery hit a huge 3 there that was kind of a momentum turning point that got us going there,” Walling said. “Jaelyn West did a fantastic job for us tonight.

“It was a great win for us.”

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