KINGSPORT - The First Tennessee Stars pulled off the improbable at Dobyns-Bennett's Buck Van Huss Dome, winning three games out of the loser's bracket on Wednesday to earn a berth in the AAU Girls Basketball 13-Under Division II National Championship final.
The Stars, the first host team in the tournament's history to make an appearance in the finals, will face the Greensboro Galaxy for the title.
"Our girls don't like to lose and they just took it one game at a time," First Tennessee coach Julius Stokely said. "It's a testament to their talent to win three games in one day."
After winning two early games, First Tennessee handed the Indiana Outlaws a 55-45 defeat in the loser's bracket final.
The Outlaws took a seven-point lead in the first period, but the Stars used a 14-0 run to close the half with a 31-24 advantage.
First Tennessee took the wind out of the Outlaws' sails for good after the break, pushing its lead to 13 at one point behind the play of Mackensey Campbell and Hillary Gray.
"We thought we could win," Campbell said. "I think we wanted it more."
Gray finished with a team-high 16 points, while Campbell tallied 14 points. Blakely Burleson finished with 10.
Gabby Duncan and Jaimie Childress each scored 13 points for the third-place Outlaws.
In the winner's bracket final, the Galaxy secured their spot in the championship game with an 62-59 victory over the Outlaws.
Greensboro held a 18-13 advantage at the break, only to watch Indiana come out in the second half and take a six-point lead behind the shooting of Childress.
The Galaxy, however, would not go away that easily. Greensboro closed the second half with a 12-point run, cutting the Outlaws' lead to two with 10 seconds left on the clock. A second later, the Galaxy's Shannon Drayton made a diving steal to give possession back to Greensboro. Miranda Jenkins sank two free throws to send the game to overtime.
"They threw the ball in and all I did was react," Drayton said. "It hyped up the whole team."
After the first extra period ended at 52-all, the Galaxy took control in the second overtime to earn their spot in the championship.
"They played with heart. I knew this was going to be a tight one," Galaxy coach Ursula Williams said. "But we're not going to celebrate until we can put those gold medals around our neck."
Jenkins led Greensboro with a game-high 27 points.
First Tennessee beat the Lady Shooting Stars of Maryland 35-30 in its first game of the day before handing state rival Team Memphis a 62-45 defeat in the loser's bracket semifinal. Burleson led the Stars against Memphis with 14 points, while Ashley Tweed scored 11.
First Tennessee must beat the Greensboro Galaxy twice today. The first game will take place at 10 a.m. today at D-B. The second, if necessary, would be at 2 p.m.