MURFREESBORO, Tenn.-Of all the impressive numbers put up by the McMinn Central girls' basketball program, the most important of all is one.
That's how many state championships the Chargerettes can now claim after beating Macon County 48-37 in Saturday's Class AA title game at Middle Tennessee State University. It was the Englewood school's first team state championship of any kind.
"I've been so wrapped up in just preparing for the next game and trying to win the next game that I really didn't think about the fact of just how big this would be," said Chargerettes coach Johnny Morgan, who will be inducted into the TSSAA Hall of Fame in April. "With about two minutes to go and we were up pretty comfortably, it hit me and I thought, 'Oh my goodness, we're playing for a state championship. We're about to be state champions.'
"This is the first time in my career that we can go into the summer on a win instead of a loss, and it feels pretty good. But we did lose a game this year, so we've got something to work on for next year."
In 33 seasons with the program, Morgan has nearly 740 career wins, has taken the Chargerettes to 11 state tournaments and finished runner-up three times, including last year when they lost after leading by 19 in the second half.
McMINN CENTRAL 48, MACON COUNTY 37
McMinn Central 13 15 8 12 - 48
Macon County 10 7 11 9 - 37
McMinn Central (48) - Jenna Adams 13, Johnson, Casteel 3, Guariola 2, Elizabeth Masengil 21, Wells 1, Williams 8, Young, Torbett.
Macon County (37) - Gregory 4, Brooks 3, Reid 6, Harris 5, Calamity Jane Coley 19, Thompson, Wilburn, Ellis, Pryor, Tuck, Vaughn, Bean.
3-point goals: McMinn Central 6 (Masengil 2, Williams 2, Casteel, Adams); Macon County 1 (Harris). Other highlights: Jenna Adams 13 r, 6 b (McCen). Records: McMinn Central 35-1; Macon County 30-4.
The Chargerettes have averaged 30 wins over the past 10 seasons and finished this year on a 32-game winning streak, all but one of those victories by double figures. The only team they had not beaten by double digits during that run was at Macon County in December.
"There are three girls who were starters in that first game who didn't start tonight because of injury," Morgan said. "So I'm very proud of the girls who came off the bench and became starters and helped us continue to build a strong season."
After turning the ball over on its first two possessions, McMinn Central (35-1) connected on three of its first four 3-point attempts in the first quarter, then opened the second with back-to-back 3s and led by 13 just before halftime.
Similar to last year's title game, the Chargerettes led by 11 at halftime. But this time when their opponents began making a run, the Chargerettes answered - despite Miss Basketball finalist Jenna Adams and sophomore post Elizabeth Masengil fighting through foul trouble for a second straight game.
"I kept reminding everybody that we had lost a game like this last year but it wasn't going to happen again this time," said Adams, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Tigerettes closed within six to begin the fourth quarter, but Masengil countered with a short jumper to start an 8-2 run that secured the championship.
"I was getting nervous when they got close to start the fourth," said Masengil, who had 21 points and five rebounds and was voted the tournament most valuable player. "We had to do something. We had to be aggressive and get as much of a cushion back as we could quick.
"McMinn Central has been close so many times before, it's kind of surreal to think we finally did it. It's still sinking in but it feels incredible."
n The TSSAA held a drawing for the boys' state tournament, which begins Wednesday at MTSU's Murphy Center.
In Class A, Arts & Sciences (28-4) opens against Lake County (23-10) at 12:45 p.m. EDT Wednesday. Thursday, Howard (23-6) will play Giles County (24-5) in the AA bracket at 12:45, and in AAA McMinn County (24-10) opens against top-ranked Bearden (33-2) at 6.