DUNLAP, Tenn. - With its offense struggling for much of the second half, the Bledsoe County girls' basketball team relied heavily on its defense in the final minutes to secure the District 7-AA tournament championship Monday.
With the Lady Warriors clinging to a one-point lead and the momentum having shifted squarely to Notre Dame's side, Bledsoe regained control by holding the Lady Irish without a basket for five minutes and 30 seconds of the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Lady Warriors made seven of 10 free throws in the final two minutes to pull away for a 43-35 victory.
"The girls really wanted this one," Bledsoe coach Carlos Davis said. "We've been down and in close games a lot this year, so they knew how to handle the situation. They knew what it would take to get it done, and when it counted they were able to do it."
Both teams struggled with their shooting for much of the first half, but Bledsoe seemed to take command with a 13-4 run in the second quarter for a nine-point halftime lead.
However Notre Dame opened the third quarter with a 9-2 spurt by continually driving into the paint, attacking the Lady Warriors' interior defense. The Lady Irish's first seven second-half baskets were either putbacks or layups, and Stephanie Bouchard's rebound basket to begin the fourth quarter tied the game.
Destanie Smith countered with a 3-pointer for Bledsoe, but while the Lady Warriors didn't give up the lead again, their advantage was cut to one point three times in the next two minutes. Smith scored all nine of her points in the second half.
"We might have been a little too laid back to start the second half," said Anna Peters, who led Bledsoe with 16 points. "We worked hard to get here, and we just had to work hard a little longer to win the district."