After leading the entire first half Friday, Grace Academy trailed more of the second half against Arts & Sciences than it led in the first semifinal in the District 5-A high school basketball tournament at Chattanooga State.
But although the Lady Golden Eagles spent most of the stretch from midway through the third quarter until late in the fourth behind, they were never more than two possessions away from tying it.
Maggie Compton helped close the deficit by making two 3-point goals in the final 1:30, and Sierra Nunley's three-point play with 17.2 seconds to go gave Grace the lead for good on the way to a 53-50 victory.
Grace (10-13) will play Silverdale Baptist Academy in tonight's championship game at 6:30. The boys' championship will follow.
Erika Goodman followed the first of Compton's late 3s with a steal in the backcourt she converted into a layup that tied the game at 45. Grace coach Les Compton said besides the obvious key plays his team executed late, there were subtle ones, too, like Emily Gill poking a ball free around midcourt that led to an extra possession.
CSAS (10-15), which plays Boyd-Buchanan in today's consolation game at 3:30, had a chance to tie with Sarah McElvain on the free-throw line for two shots with 11.8 second remaining. But she missed the first before making the second. Goodman dropped in two free throws at 8.2 seconds, and the Lady Golden Eagles were able to keep the Lady Patriots from a tying 3-point shot.
"We hit our free throws down the stretch," Coach Compton said. "We got some key rebounds. It wasn't just one thing. It was a little bit of everything."
Grace's largest lead was 20-11. CSAS had that gap down to three by halftime and took its first lead at 29-28 when Brooke Mitchell scored with 4:57 to go in the third quarter after rebounding her own miss.
"We got on them, but they had a charge and got back in the game," Coach Compton said. "We had chances to put them away and didn't. Maybe that's to their credit for hanging in there and keeping fighting."
The Lady Patriots' pressure helped in the turnaround. Grace also had some giveaways among its 30 turnovers.
"We came out really flat," CSAS coach Lee Ziegler said. "I told the girls at halftime we just can't dig holes. We're not the type of team to shoot our way out of holes like that.
"We missed five free throws down the stretch. That hurts. We were just inconsistent. You've got to give it to Grace. They played hard. They wanted this game more than we did."
The teams split in the regular season, each winning on the other's floor. The Lady Patriots' victory was by double digits while Grace had to go beyond regulation when it won.
"Definitely we did not play to the same level we did last time," Ziegler said. "We gave up too many 3s. We gave up too many transition baskets. We just did not have our best defensive game."
Jessica Bonner and Compton scored 12 points apiece for the Lady Golden Eagles with all of Compton's coming on 3s. Nunley added 11 points.
Keturah Billen, Samantha Maffett and Arica Montgomery each had 12 points for CSAS with Billen's all in the first three quarters, Maffett's all in the last three quarters and Montgomery's all in the second half.
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.