Even after beating Tennessee Temple by a combined 64 points in two regular-season meetings, the Grace Academy girls came into the District 5-A championship game expecting a tougher fight.
That’s exactly what they got in the first half Tuesday at Tennessee Temple University.
An improved group of Lady Crusaders reached the final with an upset, then led top-seeded Grace at halftime before the Lady Golden Eagles pulled away in the fourth quarter to claim the title with a 52-37 win.
“I knew it would be different this time,” Lady Golden Eagles coach Les Compton said. “Their confidence was up after they beat Copper Basin. It took us a while to get everybody on the same page. We didn’t come out very well, defensively or offensively. We did everything they needed us to do to help them out early on.”
Six straight points from Sara Broome and two free throws from Candace Dyer gave Temple a 12-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, and P.J. Sexton scored six of the Lady Crusaders’ 10 points in the second. Tournament MVP Kaylan Dilts accounted for all of Grace’s scoring in the period, which ended with Temple up 22-21.
“They came out with a lot of heart,” Dilts said. “I know they were ready to play, and we definitely were. The first half was a little shaky, but we just decided to go out there and give it all we had.”
Grace’s Chariah Gordon made two of her five 3-pointers in the third quarter, which the Lady Golden Eagles ended on a 7-0 run. Dilts and Gordon scored 23 and 22 points as Grace (21-8) won its ninth district title in the past 12 seasons.
“We had a lot of players come up with some big plays,” Compton said. “They worked hard to for it. This is really a big accomplishment for us after we lost five seniors from last year.”