Region 3-A semifinals
At Arts & Sciences
WHITWELL 48, MARION COUNTY 39
Marion 11 10 5 13 -- 39
Whitwell 14 16 8 10 -- 48
Marion County (39) -- L. Brown 2, Autumn Towery 11, K. Brown 7, Brooks 2, K. Simpson 3, Haley St. Clair 14, Grooms.
Whitwell (48) -- Green 1, Condra 6, Caldwell, Coppinger, Bennington, Haley Atterton 12, Halle Ware 16, Carter 8, Kilgore 5, Gholston.
3-point goals: Marion none; Sale Creek 5 (Condra 2, Ware, Carter, Kilgore). Other highlights: Kayla Brown 18 r; Lauren Brown 9 r, 2 b; St. Clair 7 r (MC); Braylie Condra 6 s, 3 a; Ware 7 s, 3 a; Paige Carter 7 r (W). Records: Whitwell 26-6; Marion County 17-15.
VAN BUREN 50, SALE CREEK 44 (OT)
Van Buren 10 4 7 20 9 -- 50
Sale Creek 12 9 8 12 3 -- 44
Van Buren County (50) -- Ashley Butcher 10, Grissom 2, Hitchcock 5, Thornton 2, Shockley 1, Cochran, Hankins 1, Christian 2, Lakelyn Bouldin 27.
Sale Creek (44) -- Welch 2, Megan Storey 11, Erin Hill 12, Wolff 3, Newsom, Roark 2, Wilkinson, Krissy Hodge 14, Crowder 1, Chauncey.
3-point goals: Van Buren 3 (Butcher 2, Hitchcock); Sale Creek 3 (Hill 2, Wolff). Records: Van Buren 13-16; Sale Creek 24-5.
Whitwell coach Eric Zensen wanted his girls' basketball team make sure Marion County post player Lauren Brown didn't beat his team Monday. As it turns out, none of the other Lady Warriors could do it, either.
Zensen's Lady Tigers forced 31 turnovers and built a double-digit lead before settling on a 48-39 victory Monday at Arts & Sciences. They advance to the Region 3-A championship game Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Whitwell will face Van Buren County (13-16), the District 6-A four seed that beat second-seeded Sale Creek in overtime, 50-44, behind 27 points from eighth-grader Lakelyn Bouldin in her second high school varsity game.
"She was playing middle school ball, and so we had to wait for the opportunity," Van Buren coach Amy Russell said. "She's met every expectation of ours. When she gets in the gym, all she sees is the basketball and the goal."
Whitwell (26-6) opened a double-digit advantage in the second quarter with its pressure, leading to some turnovers. The on-ball pressure by the Lady Tigers prevented Marion from getting the ball inside to Brown, who scored more than 20 points in the teams' last meeting, and the District 6-A champions led 30-21 at halftime.
The lead was 38-26 going into the fourth quarter and remained at 12 after a 3-pointer by Paige Carter with three and a half minutes remaining. Marion made one final push, trimming the lead to 44-39 on a jump shot by Haley St. Clair with 34.5 seconds to go, but Halle Ware hit two free throws, then stole an errant pass for a layup and the icer.
She led Whitwell with 16 points, while Haley Atterton had 12. St. Clair paced the Lady Wildcats with 14 points; Autumn Towery added 11.
"Our defense is what made is so successful this season," Zensen said. "We knew this was going to be a fight, but I thought we did a tremendous job, and our work ethic was great."
Sale Creek (24-5) led 23-14 early in the second half before the Lady Eagles started to come back, paced by their defensive intensity and the penetration skills of Bouldin. She scored the final 10 points of regulation, including a drive to give the team a 41-40 advantage with 55 seconds remaining.
Megan Storey hit the second of two free throws with 42 seconds remaining to force overtime, but the Lady Eagles never trailed in the extra period, with Bouldin scoring on a putback of her own miss on the first possession, then hitting four free throws down the stretch.
"We've got five seniors on this club. At halftime I told them that they have two quarters to play ball," Russell said. "We didn't compete in the first half, but we did a better job in the second half and got the result we wanted."
Krissy Hodge led the Lady Panthers with 14 points, while Erin Hill finished with 12 and Storey had 11.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.