CHURCH HILL — With Sullivan South running on fumes, Leah Leaper put the pedal to the metal and piloted Morristown East into the semifinals of the Volunteer Girls Classic.
Leaper scored 17 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to power the Lady Hurricanes to a 58-56 quarterfinal win over the Lady Rebels on Thursday.
South made a last charge in the closing moments, but East hit all four of its foul shot attempts in the final few seconds to hold off the Lady Rebels, who were playing their second game in less than 24 hours.
“That’s a good Sullivan South team,” Morristown East assistant coach Ricky Bruce said. “They’re the best team we’ve played all year.
“We talked about maintaining our poise in the final minute, and we were able to do enough to win.”
South trailed by five points with just over a minute remaining in the contest before Samantha Williams scored a basket, made a steal and converted it into a layup to bring the Lady Rebels within a single point.
But a South squad that lacks depth was unable to get over the hump as Leaper and Ashton Swaggerty each hit a pair of foul shots in the final 30 seconds to preserve the win for East.
With his key players logging big minutes for the second night in a row, South coach Josh Tate said his team looked a step slow.
“We didn’t play all that hard,” he said. “I’m hoping we see exactly how tough we have to be (to play on back-to-back days). It takes a little bit of mental toughness.”
Tate felt like his players settled for too many long-range shots instead of working for better looks in the paint, a tactic that only earned the Lady Rebels five attempts from the foul line.
“They were allowing us to shoot perimeter shots and we were more than willing to take them, unfortunately,” Tate said.
Tasha Morrell scored 12 points and Megan Blaylock added 10 for East (6-2), which moved on to face Volunteer in a semifinal contest tonight at 8.
The Lady Falcons advanced by beating Sullivan North 56-21, which will face South (9-2) in the loser’s bracket this evening at 5:30.
Samantha Williams led the Lady Rebels with a game-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds. Natalie Pickwell chipped in 13 points and five boards, while Makensey Campbell added 10 points.
Meanwhile, Daniel Boone’s defense was tough as nails in an overwhelming victory over Gate City in the quarterfinals.
Boone held the Lady Blue Devils scoreless for over 13 minutes on its way to a 54-26 victory.
With Boone clinging to an 11-8 lead near the end of the first quarter, Gate City went the entire second frame and over half of the third without scoring a single point. Meanwhile, Boone poured in 22 unanswered points to take a commanding lead.
By the time Samantha Horner ended the drought with a 3-pointer at the 3:26 mark of the third quarter, Boone was ahead 33-11.
Much to Campbell’s surprise, his team has developed into a defensive juggernaut over the last few games.
“We started out thinking we were one kind of team and we found out we were another,” he said. “Our practices are more physical than our games, so we’ve started playing like we practice.”
Megan Caldwell led Boone (8-3) with 15 points while Kaitlin Harmon added 12. Samantha Horner paced Gate City (0-7) with eight points.
The Lady Trailblazers advance to face Elizabethton in the semifinals tonight at 7. The Lady Cyclones earned their way into the semis thanks to a 45-44 win over Crockett, which will face Gate City today at 4 p.m. in the loser’s bracket.