East Hamilton girls' basketball coach Derek Morris must have had some magic words for his troops during the timeout he called with 6:20 to play in the District 6-AA high school tournament championship game Tuesday at Hixson.
Afterward the Lady Hurricanes rallied from a five-point deficit and defeated Howard 57-51 to complete a perfect season against district competition, regular season and tournament.
"I'm proud of this group," Morris said. "With what we lost last year and to come back and have our best season ever in the district is remarkable."
The game featured four ties and 11 lead changes. The Lady 'Canes made it tough on themselves by going 13-for-32 on free throws, 0-for-7 starting the fourth quarter, including all three front ends of one-and-ones.
"As ugly as it is," Morris said, "lately we've been finding ways to put it together and win."
Jessica Caudle and Juliette Harp scored 13 points apiece for East Hamilton (24-8), which hosts Polk County in a Region 3 quarterfinal Friday.
"I think we played hard and hustled the best we could," said Howard coach Ashley Wilbur, whose team hosts Meigs County on Friday. "I thought the girls played more aggressive against East Hamilton than they have in the past. We got the shots we wanted down the stretch. They just didn't fall, especially the 3-pointers we needed at the end."
Deroneasha Smartt paced the Lady Tigers (16-7) with 25 points. NuQuella Robinson added 12 before fouling out with 3:47 to go.
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.