CLASS A SECTIONAL AT WHITWELL
CLAY COUNTY 60, WHITWELL 39
Clay County 20 13 12 15 -- 60
Whitwell 8 8 12 11 -- 39
Clay County (60) -- Richards, Smith 3, Hamilton 4, Casey Cooper 13, Allie Brown 13, Grace, Olgetree, Copeland, Monroe, Sydney Roach 26, Meadows, Hatcher.
Whitwell (39) -- Green 7, Condra 2, Caldwell 4, Bennington, Atterton 4, Halle Ware 12, Carter 2, Kilgore 7, Gholston.
3-point goals: Clay County 4 (Brown 2, Smith, Roach); Whitwell 2 (Ware, Kilgore). Other highlights: Roach 7 s, 5 r; Cooper 7 r, 3 b (CC); Carter 6 r (W). Records: Clay County 24-9; Whitwell 27-7.
WHITWELL, Tenn. -- It could have been the last basketball game Sydney Roach ever played in, though if her coach has his way, there are still many to be played.
Roach, the star senior guard for Clay County, didn't defeat host Whitwell by herself in Saturday night's Class A girls' sectional game, but she came close. The four-year starter had 26 points and led a ball-hawking defensive effort with seven steals as the Lady Bulldogs won going away, 60-39, to earn their first trip to Murfreesboro in eight seasons.
"I've got one of the best guards in the state," Clay County coach Joe Sims said of Roach, who has indicated she doesn't want to play college ball. "She can do it all and she showed that tonight. I haven't pressured her about playing in college, but there are some schools that want her."
Roach and senior post Allie Brown (13 points) took turns early dazzling the standing-room-only crowd as the visitors built a 20-8 lead after one period. Brown hit a 3-pointer, followed with a strong drive and finished the quarter with a putback. In between, Roach made three strong drives into the lane, using a variety of moves to get her shot off.
Later in the half she applied a dagger to the Lady Tigers (27-7) with consecutive putbacks, the second off her own miss and in the middle of three Whitwell players with six seconds left to give Clay a 33-16 halftime lead.
"I think at the beginning of the game we were a little bit intimidated," Whitwell coach Eric Zensen said. "It was such a huge game and we wanted it so bad that we played a little bit tight. The second half we did a much better job of relaxing, but when you dig that big a hole against a great team like that, it's too much."
With star guard Halle Ware turning up her game, Whitwell tried to rally, but every time the Lady Tigers got something going Roach would answer. After a Ware drive cut the lead to 15 late in the third, Roach scored the game's next seven points to seal the win for the Lady Bulldogs (24-9).
"I couldn't have asked for a better start," Sims said. "That was the biggest thing I was worried about, the environment. It made it a lot easier to get a lead. We were trying to take the 3s away, but we had to respect Ware's penetration. We felt if we could hold her to the 15-point range and keep anybody else from going off we would be all right."
Whitwell's Zensen, despite the disappointing ending, praised his team's effort.
"I'm so happy for this team," he said of the school's first region championship team. "They worked so hard all season to get the region championship. That was one of our main goals this year, and now that we've gotten to this level we have to work even harder to stay here. I think I've got a good group of girls who will continue to work."
Ware led Whitwell with 12 points, while Brown and Casey Cooper added 13 points each for the winners.