Rhea County girls' basketball coach Darvin Gill's game plan was no secret to anyone inside East Hamilton's gym Tuesday night.
While his Lady Eagles unselfishly passed the ball around during the opening minutes of the game, Gill's voice filled the air imploring them to not be afraid to take the open shot.
"If the defender's hands are down, you have to shoot the ball!" Gill begged from the sideline.
The Lady Eagles responded, shooting 11-of-28 from behind the arc in a 61-53 win over the Lady Hurricanes. They were 5-of-9 in the third quarter, when they outscored East Hamilton 22-11.
"I admonished a few of my good shooters that they were going to have to shoot the ball," Gill said later. "If you're not open when you catch it, then you have to get open with your feet before you catch it. The kids really responded to that."
East Hamilton (4-1) got off to a fast start, led by junior Madison Hayes. The phenom — who was praised by Gill as one of the best players in the state — had 17 of her game-high 30 points in the first half, and the Lady Hurricanes led Rhea (2-4) by three at halftime.
Juniors Haley Cameron and Macy Welch wasted no time helping Rhea grab the lead in the third quarter. The duo hit four 3s in the first four minutes of the period, igniting a 12-2 Lady Eagles run that gave them a seven-point lead.
Another 9-3 run to close out the period gave them a 49-41 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Cameron and Mallory Hampton led the Lady Eagles with 18 points for the game, while Welch had 12.
"I was so pleased with the way we shot after halftime, especially Cameron and Welch," Gill said. "They really keyed a big third quarter for us, and the third has been our Achilles' heel so far this year."
Hayes tried to rally East Hamilton in the fourth quarter, scoring nine in the period. The Lady Hurricanes pulled to within three in the first two minutes of the fourth and trailed by just four points with two minutes to go, but Rhea held on down the stretch for the victory.
"We were just dead tired in that third quarter," East Hamilton coach Hunter Gremore said. "They shoot 3s; that's what they do. We were just chasing them all over the court and giving them wide-open looks, and you can't do that with a good-shooting team. We tried to battle back but didn't have enough in us."
Contact Kevin Llewallyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.