At an even 5-foot tall, Marion County's Autumn Towery definitely has the ability to get lost in a crowd. Friday night, she stood out when she was needed most.
The junior made some key buckets down the stretch of the Lady Warriors' Region 3-A quarterfinal, finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Marion advanced to Monday's semifinals at Arts & Sciences with a 62-53 victory over Silverdale Baptist. Marion County (17-14) will take on Whitwell, which defeated Copper Basin 71-41.
Lauren Brown led four double-figure Marion scorers with 18 points, and the Lady Warriors outrebounded the Lady Seahawks 47-29 with 18 offensive rebounds.
"I know that I might be at a disadvantage, but I use my speed to do the best I can and do what I can do," Towery said. "This is big that we were able to win this game. People thought that since we lost Keta [Robinette, last year's senior star], that we would fall apart.
"It means a lot to show what all we can do."
Both coaches tinkered with their defenses during the game. Silverdale came out in a 2-3 zone, but Marion took advantage by hitting five first-half 3-pointers -- three by Micayla Brooks -- in taking a 29-17 lead in the second quarter. Silverdale coach David Massengill switched to a man-to-man defense, and the Lady Seahawks outscored Marion 16-7 the rest of the half to trail by three.
Marion coach Randy Ellis sent two defenders at Mariah Massengill all game long, getting the ball out of her hands and forcing the other Lady Seahawks to produce.
"We did a fantastic job of shading to her side and shadowing her the entire game," Ellis said. "Micayla was with her everywhere she went."
A 3 by Sloane Woodard tied the game at 38 in the first minute of the third quarter, but Marion went on a 13-2 run to end the quarter by hammering the boards. The Lady Warriors outrebounded Silverdale 20-4 in that eight-minute span.
The lead peaked at 15 before the starters were pulled for both teams.
"We played with a lot more heart tonight than I expected," Ellis said. "We've relied on the post, and tonight we came out and hit some shots. Autumn was big for us; every time Silverdale got back in it, she took the ball to the basket and did some good things for us."
Brown had 17 rebounds, while her sister Kayla had 14 to go with 11 points. Brooks hit four 3s for 12 points.
Massengill finished with 21 points while Woodard had 12 points for Silverdale (13-15).
"Marion is a polished, fundamental team," Coach Massengill said. "They contained Mariah well and refused to let her beat them. Sloane just went ice cold in the second half, and they hammered us on the boards.
"I tell the girls that we have to win two of three things -- rebounding, turnovers and free throws -- and we just didn't do that tonight."