After their performance in the Region 3-A high school basketball tournament, Whitwell's Lady Tigers may want to consider going by the Chameleons the rest of the year.
Whitwell scrapped its frequently used swarming, end-to-end defense in favor of tightening into a half-court zone its last two games and operated in it like it had been using it all season. That, combined with some red-hot shooting from the arc and the free-throw line, lifted the Lady Tigers past Silverdale Baptist Academy 65-41 at Sale Creek in Wednesday's championship game.
Whitwell (26-8) will host Clarkrange in a state sectional Saturday. Silverdale (20-9) will play at Jackson County, which beat Clarkrange 58-52 in the Region 4 title game. The TSSAA has set game times at 7 p.m. local time of the host schools.
Whitwell coach Eric Zensen put his team in a zone in its semifinal and, while giving up 30 points to Van Buren's Lakelyn Bouldin, no other Eaglette scored more than eight. Silverdale featured point guard Mariah Massengill, who made five 3s and scored 21 on Wednesday, but no teammate had more than eight.
"Mariah is such a great player," Zensen said. "She's such a good penetrator and slasher. She attacks the basket really well. We wanted to pack it in and close those gaps."
Sophomore Alyssa Coppinger, whose up, down, and back up season has mirrored that of Whitwell's team, regained the starting spot she once had after an 18-point game in their quarterfinal win and backed a 21-point semifinal performance with 20 against the Lady Seahawks.
"I think it was all because of my team," said Coppinger, who was selected the tournament's most valuable player. "They gave me confidence in myself to shoot the ball when I was open."
Coppinger made four 3-point goals against Silverdale's zone, but it was Kelsey Kilgore who had four in the first half that ended with the Lady Tigers leading 27-21. She added another 3 in their 25-point third quarter, went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line and finished with 25 points.
"Give them all the credit in the world," Silverdale coach David Massengill said. "They made some big shots."
Paige Carter added 11 points for the back-to-back region-champion Lady Tigers, who were 16-of-17 from the free-throw line Wednesday after making 20 of 21 in their semifinal.
"After we lost to Sale Creek in the district tournament, the girls didn't pout or hang their heads," Zensen said. "We reset ourselves and our next goal was to win the region tournament. That's a credit to them and the work they put in to get everything done."