McMINN CENTRAL 52, CANNON COUNTY 41
Cannon County 4 13 13 11 - 41
McMinn Central 13 15 5 19 - 52
Cannon County (41) - A. Sissom 5, E. Sissom 8, Reed 2, King 6, Clesey Payne 14, Young 5, Ruehlen 1.
McMinn Central (52) - Jenna Adams 16, Johnson 3, Casteel 5, Guariola 3, Elizabeth Masengil 19, Wells, Williams 3, Young 3, Cowart, Torbett.
3-point goals: Cannon 1 (Young); McMinn Central 5 (Adams, Casteel, Guariola, Williams, Young). Records: McMinn Central 34-1; Cannon County 30-8.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn.-After biting his tongue and bottling his frustration for much of the second half, Johnny Morgan finally had to let his emotions be known.
As McMinn Central's veteran coach exited the Murphy Center court, walking toward the Cannon County fans who took up more than half the arena, Morgan raised his arms and began pumping his fist.
Despite his three leading scorers sitting out most of the third quarter with four fouls each, top-ranked McMinn Central held on to defeat Cannon County 52-41 in the semifinals of the Class AA girls' state basketball tournament at Middle Tennessee State University.
And Morgan wanted to make sure everybody understood just how excited he was at returning to the TSSAA championship game.
"It wasn't directed in a negative way toward their fans," Morgan said. "But I was tired of hearing all year that they were the next state champions. We're here to play for a championship ourselves, and after the way the third quarter went, I was just letting out my excitement. Back when I was a player I was emotional, and the day the emotion is gone for me is when I need to get out of it."
In avenging their only loss of the season - a nine-point defeat at Cannon County during a Thanksgiving tournament - the Chargerettes (34-1) moved into the title game for a second straight year. They will play sixth-ranked Macon County today at 5 p.m. EST.
McMinn Central won at Macon County by seven earlier this season and will play in the title game for a fourth time in program history, hoping to claim the school's first championship of any kind.
Friday's game was tightly officiated on both sides as the teams were whistled for a combined 50 fouls.
The Chargerettes built a double-digit lead in the first half but had to withstand a furious third-quarter Cannon comeback to advance.
Miss Basketball finalist Jenna Adams was the first of the three McMinn Central starters called for her fourth foul, with 6:10 remaining in the third period. Elizabeth Masengil was called for her fourth one minute later, with the Chargerettes up by 10. At that point Adams and Masengil had combined for 21 of their team's 30 points.
After hitting a 3-pointer that pushed the lead back to 10, Alisa Guariola was called for her fourth foul with 3:25 to go in the third, and the Chargerettes finished out the quarter with three sophomores, one junior and a senior who had combined to score six points up to that point.
"The towel I was holding while I was sitting on the bench is probably in shreds now," said Adams, who had 11 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and four steals in the first half. "I was so mad and frustrated. Just sitting and watching the lead get smaller was the worst feeling.
"When the fourth quarter started and we got to go back out there, me and Elizabeth just looked at each other and said, 'Let's go.' We were going to be aggressive and try to build the lead back up as much as we could before we fouled out."
Masengil and Adams combined to score 12 of the team's first 14 points of the final period, pushing what had been a two-point lead with 7:34 to go back to a comfortable margin. Masengil finished with 19 points, while Adams finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks and four steals before fouling out with 58 seconds remaining.
"We were just basically trying to hold on while those three were out of the game," said senior point guard Ashley Johnson, who continually encouraged her inexperienced teammates during the frantic third quarter. "I was just trying to keep everybody as calm as possible and not blow the lead until we got our scorers back out there.
"Once we got them back, our confidence came back with them, and we felt really good about our chances."