The Sullivan Central senior — an offensive and emotional leader — clutched her knee, writhing in pain. Then, she reached for her coach’s hand.
It wasn’t good. But the Lady Cougars weren’t about to cave in.
An inspired final four minutes guided Central past county rival Sullivan South 49-40 in the District 1-AAA girls basketball tournament semifinals at the Buck Van Huss Dome.
“They hit us with their best shot early and we weathered the storm,” said Central coach Gary Surcey, whose team trailed 9-0 at the start.
“In the second half, we got after it and so did they.”
The Lady Cougars (20-8), seeded third, will face Science Hill for the district title on Monday at 7:30 p.m. The Lady Hilltoppers shocked No. 1 Tennessee High 56-48 in Friday’s opener.
Moody, at full speed, pulled up near the foul line with 3:55 to play. She slipped and immediately fell to the court with what appeared to be a serious left knee injury.
Central, leading 40-38, allowed just two points the rest of the way. Brittany Fields assumed the role of playmaker from Moody — and made plays.
The senior made six of her eight foul shots in final two minutes to preserve the Lady Cougars’ lead. She finished with 12 points.
Moody anchored Central with 16 points, netting 14 in the opening half. Erika Blizard added 10.
“The first thing I told the girls after (Moody) went down was that they were going to step up,” South coach Josh Tate said. “There isn’t going to be a letdown out there.”
The Lady Cougars allowed just 11 second-half points in a display that was more scrappy than efficient. South (8-18) remained close thanks to its own brand of stellar defense, but could not overcome an overall lack of consistency on the offensive end.
Only wing Makensey Campbell reached double digits for the Lady Rebels, collecting 11 points. Abbey Fletcher added seven and Grace Collins six.
“We just couldn’t score,” Tate said. “We got stop after stop after stop, and just couldn’t get the ball to go in the hoop.”
Science Hill senior Johneshia Good did her surname one better in Friday’s first semifinal.
Good was great in the second half, scoring nine of her 13 points in the final frame to lift the Lady Hilltoppers (15-13) into their second consecutive 1-AAA final.
“Everyone stepped up,” Good said. “This is about the team, not just me. We went to camp in the summer together, we did conditioning together and we won this game together.”
Last season, the Hill defeated Dobyns-Bennett for its first district tournament title since 1994. A second in a row would be much more compelling — seeing as the Lady Hilltoppers opened the year 1-6.
Senior Danielle Montgomery, who led the Lady Vikings (23-3) with 11 points, missed three shots and a pair of free throws over the final 1:18.
“In the second half, we settled down,” Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell said. “We finished our possessions and limited them on the offensive end.
“And in the last two, three minutes, it was just a matter of our kids responding to the situation.”