Lady Wildcats roll as Cloudland offense can’t overcome deep freeze

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, March 10, 2022

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
MURFREESBORO –  Thursday’s Class 1-A Girls BlueCross Basketball Championship quarterfinal game between the Cloudland Lady Highlanders and Wayne Co. Lady Wildcats came with two different storylines.
The Lady Highlanders were making their second consecutive trip to the Glass House on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University while Wayne Co. had finally conquered a 10-year hiatus from the state championship where their program has a long and storied history of playing and winning championships at the state level.
Cloudland came in with calmness, but unfortunately, while their defense played well, the offense was ice cold allowing the Lady Wildcats to advance to the semifinals on Friday with a 51-28 victory over the Lady ‘Landers.
The Lady Highlanders finished with an overall 21-10 record.
Cloudland came out of the gates with an obvious game plan that worked for the opening minutes of the first quarter as the defensive effort was superb.
The only missing part was getting the offensive effort to match up with how the Lady ‘Landers were playing on the defensive end as Cloudland found themselves in a scoring lull shooting only 17 % for the first half while Wayne Co. was shooting at a 53% clip to take a 31-13 lead to the locker room at the break.
The Lady ‘Landers had several looks at the basket but couldn’t get the ball to fall through the twine.
Meanwhile, it seemed that everything that Wayne Co. threw up found its mark including a half-court buzzer-beating three from Lady Wildcat Lauren Bryant to end the first quarter of play.
Bryant had 12 of Wayne Co.’s 31 at the break as the Lady Wildcats were 7-of-13 from beyond the arc making up 21 of their 31 points. Wayne Co. also recorded eight second-chance points to six for Cloudland.
Ella Benfield was working the paint hard for Cloudland as her six points led the Cloudland charge in the opening half. Ryan Turbyfill connected on a trey for three while Saharra McKinney and Izabella Christman chipped in with two points each.
Needing to catch fire quick to catch up, the Lady ‘Landers continued to attack the basket with a little more success in the second half but it wouldn’t be enough as Wayne Co. with the large lead were a little more relaxed and purposefully in their attack as each time Cloudland scored Wayne Co. had an answer.
“It was a matter of adjusting,” said Wayne Co. head coach Molly Ashley who 21 years to the day won a state title as a player for Wayne Co. “It was the first time that we have been in a while and these girls have worked so hard.
“It’s hard to explain coming out of the tunnel how much it means to be here. I guess the girls understand now why we ran so much in the summer and shot so much in the gym.”
The win was special for Bryant whose mother played for Wayne Co. as well.
“This has been our goal since we were little kids,” said Bryant. “My mom was a Lady Wildcat and I think we have done a good job to get here.”
Bryant led Wayne Co. with a game-high 15 points while Savanna McClain and Blair Baugus finished with 10 points apiece.
Cloudland was paced by eight points each from Benfield and Karah Fields. Christman added five from her post position.
“We started well and our intensity was good and our kids played well getting us a couple of baskets inside,” said Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield. “They got hot on us and hit some big-time three’s but we had a hard time of making shots.
“They are a team that can score in a hurry. We had to try to match up which hurts us a little bit because it makes it hard to defend the post as well and they got some close buckets and that hurt us  a little bit at times but offensively we couldn’t make a shot when we had too.”
Cloudland’s offense revolves around working the ball inside and kicking it out to the outside shooters when the shot is not there. Wayne Co. took that ability away forcing the Lady ‘Landers to more outside shots.
“They were packing it in the middle and forcing us outside to shoot,” said sophomore Saharra McKinney. “We had the shots they just wasn’t falling.”
The Lady Highlanders will be losing seniors Fields and Taylor Hicks, but looking ahead, the Lady ‘Landers have a large nucleus returning.
“We have a lot of good kids that have been playing some sophomore and juniors as the nucleus of it,” said Birchfield. “We lose Karah and Taylor as seniors but we just have to go back to work and develop more offensive skills.”
2022 Class 1-A Girls Quarterfinals BlueCross Basketball Championship
Wayne Co. 51-28
Wayne Co. (51)
Jacqueline Keaton 3, Savanna McClain 10, Blair Baugus 10, Lauren Bryant 15, Michaela Gallian 8, Cambree Camfield 3, Isabel Luedeke 2.
Cloudland (28)
Ella Benfield 8, Saharra McKinney 2, Ryan Turbyfill 3, Izabella Christman 5, Karah Fields 8, Chloe Watson 2.
Wayne Co. ………. 18  13    9  11 – 51
Cloudland ……….    8    5    8    7 – 28
BY THE NUMBERS
24
Cloudland’s shooting percentage
for the game.
25
Wayne Co.’s largest lead
with 2:13 left in the game.
9
Total number of Lady Wildcat
three’s.
5
Total number of steals by Ella
Benfield and rebounds by Saharra
McKinney.
23
Total number of rebounds by
Lady Highlanders.

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