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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / LFO's Christina Collins (24) dribbles the ball during the girls Best of Preps tournament semi final game between East Hamilton and Lakeview Fort Oglethorpe high schools at East Hamilton on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021 in Ooltewah, Tenn.

The T-shirt is 11 years old and worn a little thin, but it seems to be serving its purpose.

Of course it could also be the amount of talent that steps on the court for the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe girls' basketball team — more so than the lucky shirt worn by head coach Dewayne Watkins — that is the reason for the team's level of success at this week's Best of Preps tournament.

The Lady Warriors used a dominating first-quarter run to take command, then continued to pull away for a convincing 73-39 win over host East Hamilton in Tuesday's semifinals. It marks the first time LFO has advanced to the tournament title game, where it will face Meigs County, a 52-46 winner over defending tourney champion Signal Mountain.

"I just decided to wear this shirt for the first round of the tournament, and after we won that one I figured I had better wash it with the uniforms and wear it again," said Watkins, wearing a t-shirt from the 2010 Best of Preps event — his first season as LFO head coach and also the first time the program competed in the tournament. "Athletes and coaches are superstitious, so you better believe I'll wash it and wear it again for the championship game."

(READ MORE: Final scores and photos from Tuesday's Best of Preps basketball tournament)

Photo Gallery

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe vs. East Hamilton on Dec. 28, 2021

After going winless in 20 games last season, LFO improved to 12-0 this season in impressive fashion. The Lady Warriors took control with a shooting exhibition that led to a 31-6 lead by the end of the first quarter. Six different Lady Warriors scored and the team connected on five 3-pointers in the deciding opening quarter.

"Last year was building up to this year," Watkins said. "We have quite a few players who took their knocks last year but got the experience of competing and it's paying off. We have a core group but we try to play a lot of players. Our depth is a crucial part of the success we're having."

Junior Christina Collins led all scorers with 19 points for LFO, while Angel Simmons added 16, Christen Collins 14 and Princess Simmons 12. Christen Collins and Simmons each hit four 3-pointers. McKenna Hayes led East Hamilton with 11 points.

"It means a lot to the players and to me to finally get to the title game," Watkins said. "I've brought some teams into this tournament thinking we had a chance but we couldn't get there. But this team is playing with a lot of confidence right now.

"We want the other team to have to adjust to what we're doing and just keep coming at them in waves."

 

Consolation games

Notre Dame 61, Rhea County 24: The Lady Fighting Irish jumped out to a commanding 25-6 first-quarter lead and were never threatened from there. Malyah Maples led Notre Dame with 15 points, including seven in the first quarter, while Dayonna Perryman and Kenzi Campbell each added 11. Campbell scored all of her points in the first half, including three 3-pointers as Notre Dame connected on eight threes.

The Lady Golden Eagles were led by Emily McClure's nine points, all coming on 3-pointers.

Boyd Buchanan 66, Silverdale Baptist 36: The Lady Buccaneers used a 21-11 second-quarter run to take control, then continued to pull away in the second half with a 29-10 run.

Dani Reeves and Jalisa Sanders each finished with 14 points to lead Boyd Buchanan, while Sarah Durham added 12. Sanders scored nine of her points in the first half and Reeves led the way in the second half, accounting for eight of hers in the final two quarters.

Lauren Kugler led the Lady Seahawks with 11 points.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis

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