CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Ideally, a high school basketball coach wouldn't choose to play a freshman who has spot started a few times all 32 minutes at point guard in a region-tournament elimination game. Cleveland's Rachel Moore felt she had no choice.
"She's our backup," Moore said of rail-thin ninth-grader Marissa Langford. "She doesn't have a backup."
With usual point guard Sydnie Anderson out, Langford did the job directing the offense as the Lady Raiders beat White County 50-42 in a Region 3-AAA quarterfinal Thursday at Cleveland.
After tonight's boys' quarterfinals at the homes of the higher-seeded teams, the rest of the tournament will be played at Rhea County starting Saturday.
Anderson is a sophomore but played extensively a year ago. Moore said she held Anderson out as a precautionary measure because she recently had oral surgery.
The coach said she told Langford about four hours before game time she would be starting.
"I kind of had an idea at practice yesterday when we were going over first five," Langford said. "I knew Sydnie was sick."
Langford said her instructions from the bench were simple. She was told it was her duty to get her teammates set, look for the open person and in essence "just play basketball."
"Considering the magnitude of this game, I thought she did great," Moore said. "She did a great job running the team and taking care of the basketball."
The last of Langford's five points was on the front end of a bonus situation with 1:11 to play that made it 44-38, but she missed the other five she shot from the line and all in the last 1:48.
"I could not make my free throws," Langford said. "I've got to work on that."
Classmate Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad took it upon herself to handle any scoring load. Her 27 points included 7-of-7 free-throw shooting, and four were in the final 53.9 seconds.
"As the season has progressed, she's been one that has really emerged as one of our go-to players," Moore said. "She's had some games in the 20s, maybe not 27. She picked a good time for it."
Cleveland (15-13) never trailed after taking a 4-2 lead. The largest advantage was 43-32, but an 8-1 run by White County (16-12) had it down to four with a minute to play.
The Lady Raiders' Nora Berry and the Warriorettes' Brittany Dodson each scored 11 points after going scoreless in the first quarter. White County's Loren Foster had eight of her 10 points, including both of her 3-point goals, in the third quarter.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.