JONESBOROUGH — Free throws are important. In the postseason, they are critical.
Sullivan Central went 10-of-12 from the charity stripe in the final two minutes to upend Sullivan South 58-51 in the quarterfinals of the District 1-AAA girls basketball tournament Monday at David Crockett.
The fourth-seeded Lady Cougars (18-10) advanced to take on No. 1 Science Hill (23-5) in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal. The Lady Hilltoppers defeated David Crockett 72-31 on Monday.
Caught in a knockdown, drag-out affair, Central had to use sharpshooting from the free throw line to subdue the determined Lady Rebels (11-12). The Lady Cougars hit 12 of 17 free throws in the fourth quarter and 17 of 24 in the second half. For the game, Central outscored South 20-8 at the charity stripe.
“Jacqueline Kestner struggled to score in the game, but she came through big with her free throws late in the fourth quarter,’’ said Central coach Gary Surcey. “Kim Wood was tough at the line down the stretch. They were both big for us tonight.’’
Kestner was 6-for-8 at the line and Wood 4-for-4 in the crucial fourth quarter.
Wood gave the Lady Cougars their largest lead of the game, 25-20, with a bucket and a free throw just 11 seconds into the second half.
South’s Tyria Hutchins then took the Lady Rebels’ fate into her own hands. Over the next 2½ minutes, Hutchins scored three baskets and a free throw, also dishing a nifty pass to teammate Kim Johnson that resulted in a basket and a free throw. South’s 10-2 outburst put it up 30-28 with 4:01 left in the third quarter.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the score was knotted at 36.
The lead went back and forth and, when Hutchins scored with 3:46 left in the contest, the Lady Rebs were on top 45-43. But Central went on a 7-0 run to take a 50-45 lead with 1:57 to go.
South got within 50-49 on two Hutchins free throws with 60 seconds left, but critical turnovers in the final minute doomed the Lady Rebels’ comeback hopes.
“I thought the girls played very, very hard tonight,’’ said South coach Josh Pate. “Those turnovers late in the fourth quarter just killed us.’’
Wood, a senior, scored 13 second-half points. She finished with 16 points and eight boards.
“I wanted to win,’’ Wood said. “I didn’t want this to be my last game.’’
Erika Blizard was solid for Central, adding 15 points and nine rebounds.
“We could have folded in the second half when South took the lead,’’ Surcey added. “But the girls stepped up and made things happen. That’s a good sign at tournament time.’’
Makensey Campbell led South with 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Hutchins finished with 14 points, all in the second half, while Kim Johnson added 11 points and eight boards.
The tournament quarterfinals continue Tuesday with third-seeded Tennessee High (18-8) taking on six seed Daniel Boone (10-13) at 6 p.m. followed by No. 2 Dobyns-Bennett (17-7) and No. 7 Volunteer (9-14) at 7:30.