McMinn Central girls’ title dreams fall short in Class 2A final

Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / McMinn Central junior Molly Masingale dribbless in Saturday's Class 2A state championship game against Westview in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Karina Bystry, Maddox Mayfield and Molly Masingale embraced one another Saturday night as they walked off the basketball court for the final time this season.

McMinn Central’s three leaders did not hold their heads down as they watched Westview celebrate back-to-back TSSAA Class 2A titles after a dominant 56-37 victory in the BlueCross State Championships inside the Murphy Center at Middle Tennessee State University. 

“The motivation doesn’t start next season or the next time we get in the gym,” Masingale said. “It really started five minutes ago, when we saw them go get the gold ball. We have now seen what it is like to win it all, and that is going to be our motivation for next year. It starts right now.”

The Chargerettes (28-8) put together an incredible season in which they handed losses to Division II-AA state champion Knoxville Catholic as well as Class 4A champ Bradley Central.

Legendary coach Johnny Morgan’s bunch played exciting basketball, too, with a high-tempo offense led by Masingale and Bystry, who combined for 107 points in three tournament games in Murfreesboro.

Bystry, a sophomore, scored 57 points and added five blocked shots at state, which yieled the program’s fifth all-time runner-up finish and first since 2015.

“They can’t be disappointed in the season that they have had,” Morgan said. “We have played one of the best schedules in the state and beat some great teams. We won 28 games and added even more pride to our community. I feel like we were a lot of fun to watch this year when our offense and press were really going strong.

“I have phenomenal kids on this team, and every single one of them are great in and outside of school.”

Westview (33-1) made five 3-pointers in the first half to build a nine-point lead at the break, but that was cut down by more than half early in the third quarter. Mayfield made back-to-back baskets in the first 26 seconds, with her 3-pointer from the right wing assisted by Reagan Baker cutting McMinn Central’s deficit to 25-21.

However, after attempting zero free throws in the first half, it was the aggressiveness by Westview on the drive in the second half that stood out. The Lady Chargers from Martin made their first 13 free throws of the second half and had 19 makes from the line in 23 chances to close out their program’s third state title.

Jada Harrison was selected as tournament MVP, and she saved a special performance for the title game with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Teammate McCall Sims also scored 17 points, while Mary Anna Chester made all three of her 3-point attempts to finish with 12 points.

“We need to go out here and hold our heads up high. We did the best we could,” Morgan said. “Westview was just better tonight. But if we had to face them tomorrow night, I would still like my girls’ chances. I still think if we played to our capability, we were the best team in the classification.”

Bystry scored a team-high 15 points and had three blocks Saturday, while Masingale had eight points to go with 10 rebounds and two blocks. 

With no seniors on the roster, the Chargerettes have a chance to build on what they accomplished this season.

“No one expected us to be here in the first place,” Masingale said. “We proved everyone wrong. I am proud of us for as far as we have come, and we are going to do the same thing next year with a better result.”

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