By Jaime Lackey
Of all the numbers the Grace Academy girls' basketball team has posted this season, 5-for-5 may be the one that means the most.
The Lady Golden Eagles completed a season sweep of district rival Tennessee Temple on Wednesday with a 42-29 victory in the Region 3-A championship game at Temple University.
"We've been hearing about how hard it is to beat someone three, four or five times," Grace senior Kyndall Blake said. "But we just kept remembering that we had beaten them. We didn't get concerned about how many times. This was the one we wanted. We didn't want to feel the way we did last year."
The Lady Golden Eagles beat Temple three times last season before their loss to the Lady Crusaders in the region final forced Grace to make the long trip to Jackson County for its Class A state sectional game. This year, Temple will travel to Region 4 champion Clarkrange, while the Lady Golden Eagles host 4-A runner-up Jackson in a rematch Saturday night at Temple University.
Coach Les Compton's team came into Wednesday's game focused on keeping Temple out of its offense, a plan that paid off as leading scorer Danielle Rector was held to seven points, 20 below her regular-season average.
The Lady Crusaders' Amanda Jordan kept them in the game by scoring 10 of her 12 points in the first half, including six straight to get Temple within 16-14 at halftime.
"We just missed her," Compton said. "She did a good job in transition and got some stickbacks. If not for that, they wouldn't have had anything in the first half."
Rector picked up her third foul two minutes into the second half and got a fourth a little more than two minutes later. Grace sophomore Kaylan Dilts scored eight of her game-high 14 points in the third quarter, helping the Lady Golden Eagles pull away for a 10-point lead.
"That was huge," Compton said. "Kaylan's been big for us this year. She was upset about (going scoreless) Monday night, but she made some decisions about how she wanted to play. She showed a lot of maturity, and that was very critical for us."
Rector started the fourth quarter and played the rest of the period without fouling out, but her presence couldn't get the Lady Crusaders out of their offensive slump.
"We played good defensively, but offensively we were just out of it," Temple coach Joe McCormick said. "I thought we did a good job against the press and didn't turn the ball over as much, but after we got down by 10 points, we just gave up."
Meanwhile, the Lady Golden Eagles (28-4) started clicking on both ends of the floor. Minus a late 3-pointer from Rector and Angela Kemp's free-throws in the final seconds, Grace outscored Temple 26-8 in the second half.
"Throughout the year, we haven't always run our offense," said tournament MVP Christin Moss. "We've used our defense to keep us in the game. But tonight, we really executed our offense and came together as a team."
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