TMSAA Class A East Sectional Championship: Jr. Lady Highlanders speed past Ottway for title

Published 7:09 am Tuesday, February 5, 2019

KINGSPORT—By the end of the first quarter, it seemed like the Jr. Lady Highlanders were going to have another barn burner on their hands as they faced Ottway in the TMSAA Class A East Sectional Championship at John Sevier Middle School Saturday.

At the end of one, the Jr. Lady ’Landers held a small 7-6 lead over Ottway. Cloudland, however, locked down defensively in the second period and didn’t look back as they rolled to a 38-23 win.

The Jr. Lady Highlanders’ defense would cause Ottway problems all game as Ottway didn’t hit double digits till almost halfway through the third period.

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“We talked during preparation for them about how No. 5 (Ottway’s Sonya Wagnor) is a super player,” said Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield. “We had to have a lockdown defense. They scored well against Mary Hughes. But I couldn’t be more proud of our kids executing what we worked on all day as we get ready for a really good basketball team.”

In the second quarter, the Jr. Lady Highlanders collected 12 points in the period while holding Ottway to just two points to take a 19-8 lead into the half. Cloudland’s Izabella Christman, the tournament’s MVP, scored five of her game-high 13 points in the second quarter.

Christman’s MVP selections came on the heels of a 36 points performance over the three games the Jr. Lady Highlanders played during the East Sectional.

“She has really risen to the challenge,” said Cloudland Elementary head coach Matt Birchfield. “She has really carried us on her back this whole tournament. She battled inside and rebounded really well for us. She had a great tournament, and I am really proud of her.”

The Jr. Lady Highlanders opened the third period with a quick five points as Kendall Birchfield hit her second three of the game. Birchfield’s trey was followed up by a bucket from Ryan Turbyfill to jump Cloudland ahead 24-8. Another 3-pointer from Birchfield allowed Cloudland a sizable 27-12 edge before going into the fourth ahead 29-16 after a bucket from Ella Benfield.

Christman opened the fourth with back-to-back inside buckets to scoot Cloudland ahead 33-17. Birchfield connected on a three-point play before Christman sank a shot to help the Jr. Lady Highlanders keep control down the stretch and en route to a championship win.

This Friday, the Jr. Lady Highlanders will take on South Lawrence Middle School in the opening round of the first-ever TMSAA Class A Girls State Tournament. The game will be played at 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) inside Blackman Middle School in Murfreesboro. The winner of the game will advance on to the championship game on Saturday.

“The kids have talked about it all year,” said Birchfield. “This is one of the big goals we had at the beginning of the year when we started this thing.”

Birchfield finished with nine points, while Benfield and McKinney recorded six points each. Turbyfill would have four.