GRAY — Bombs away.
Using the 3-point shot as their primary weapon of choice, Tennessee High and Science Hill combined for 21 treys Friday evening in the semifinal round of District 1-AAA girls basketball tournament.
Led by seniors Ashlee Mitchell and Chloe Neil, Tennessee High (24-4) earned an invitation to the championship game with a 78-64 win over Volunteer.
Before the start of the contest, THS coach Barry Wade encouraged his team to “set the tempo early.” Lady Vikings guard Chloe Neil took that advice to heart and sank three 3-pointers in the opening moments of the game.
“We wanted to get Chloe in a position to score early in the game and she came through for us,” Wade said.
Volunteer (18-14) nevertheless was able to remain competitive throughout much of the first half. Paced by leading scorer Lindsey Overbey’s 19 points, the Lady Falcons kept Tennessee High within striking distance.
“We made some runs,” Volunteer coach Jerry Myers said, “but Tennessee High made some bigger runs. Every time they made a push, we answered with one. We just weren’t able to close the gap and get back into the game.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Volunteer made its final run of the contest. Trailing 63-44 at the start of the quarter, Overbey sank six points and senior post Deanna Way added a 3-pointer to cut the Lady Vikings’ lead to 63-53.
“Deanna was in a bit of a slump in the middle of the year, but she has shot it really well in the last few games,” Myers said.
Following a timeout, the Lady Vikings regrouped to quell the Lady Falcons’ comeback attempt. Taking advantage of fouls, Tennessee High shot 8-for-16 from the charity stripe in the final moments.
Mitchell — who scored six of her 23 points in the final quarter — went 4-for-7 from the free throw line.
“Ashlee really came through for us. This was her kind of game,” Wade said.
In the final game of the evening, top-seeded Science Hill (28-3) overcame a sluggish first half to advance to Tuesday’s championship game by defeating Daniel Boone 75-40.
The Lady Trailblazers (16-12) wasted no time in taking advantage of the Lady Hilltoppers’ slow start. Boone standout Jenny Snyder scored six of her team-high 14 points in the first quarter.
“Our girls listened to our game plan in the first half. Snyder got us off to a good start,” said Boone coach Travis Mains.
Leading 12-11 at the start of the second period, Science Hill began to shake off its shooting slump.
Junior guard Tiana Tarter fueled the Lady ’Toppers’ run when she sank two 3-pointers to help expand the lead to seven midway through the second quarter.
“Once you let Science Hill start going, they’re almost impossible to stop,” Mains said.
Throughout the second half, the Lady Hilltoppers used the 3-point shot to run away with the contest. Tarter’s 23-point performance was highlighted by five treys.
“We just got tired down the stretch. Science Hill is a tremendous team,” Mains said. “We gave them trouble for about a quarter and then they made a run on us. When they start hitting the 3-pointers, it can get away from you really quick.”
Looking ahead to Monday’s consolation game with Volunteer, Mains said he expects both teams to be competitive.
“We matched up well with them the first two times we played. We just need to get a good effort,” he said.
Science Hill and Tennessee High will meet for the tournament title Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Daniel Boone.
“We’re playing really well right now,” Wade said, “but this is the time of year when Science Hill really shines.
“Hopefully, we will have a good contest like we did earlier in the year when they came to (Viking Hall).”