Sunbright Middle Lady Tigers win Area 4-A Championship

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By Goose Lindsay

The Area 4-A championship game hasn’t been kind to the Sunbright Lady Tigers over the years. That all changed Thursday evening, as Daniel Northrup’s squad traveled to Coalfield and defeated the Lady Jackets, 38-29.

“We’ve been so close for several years,” Northrup said. “We’ve played in a few championship games, but always came up short so this is a good feeling. We’re thankful to have it.”

In the early stages of the contest it looked as if Sunbright would come up short again. The Lady Jackets roared out to a 10-2 lead before the Lady Tigers made an adjustment on defense.

“They jumped out on us,” Northrup said. “We knew they were penetrating our zone and the only way to get back into it was to go full court man-to-man.”

“They changed defenses on us and we really struggled against their man-to-man,” Coalfield head coach Kevin Walls said. “We kind of looked shell-shocked for a while.”

After switching to man-to-man on defense, Sunbright scored the final 5 points of the first quarter, and then outscored Coalfield 13-5 in the second quarter to take a 20-15 lead at halftime.

Ashlin Trent led Sunbright in the first half with 8 points while Gabbi Lowe scored 5 for the Jackets.

Coalfield scored first in the second quarter to close the deficit to 20-17, but Sunbright answered with a pair of 3-pointers from Callie Jo Smith on the way to a 28-22 lead at the end of the period.

The Jackets got as close as 5 points on three occasions in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Tigers withstood every charge on the way to the championship.

Trent led Sunbright on the night with 10 points while Smith (8 points, 7 rebounds) and Lindsey Brown (8 points) were close behind.

Northrup said a balanced attack has been the key all year for the Lady Tigers.

“We have no jealousy on the team. Each girl plays a vital role,” he said. “Not everyone scores or is recognized by the average fan, but people who know basketball see the individual contributions that kids make like rebounds, steals, getting on the floor or playing good defense.”

A player that stood out to Northrup during the tournament was point guard Holly Nitzschke. She scored just 4 points in two games, but did a lot of little things for the Lady Tigers.

“We couldn’t have won this game without her,” Northrup said. “She’s played great for us all season, but especially in this tournament. She locks people down on defense and takes care of the basketball. She’s a very smart player.”

Coalfield was led in defeat by Alexis Morrison (9 points, 11 rebounds) and Gabbi Lowe (9 points).

Both teams advanced to the TMSAA Class A East Tennessee Sectional Tournament in Sevierville.

Coalfield played in Saturday’s opening round, and Coach Walls wants his team to relax heading into sectional play.

“Hopefully we can forget about this one,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll go up there and find a team that knows nothing about us and we don’t know anything about them so we can just relax and play some basketball.” 

Sunbright received a first round bye and played Monday evening in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

“We’ll enjoy it for a little while but we’ll need to refocus and be ready for Monday,” Northrup said.

Coalfield (29) Lowe 9, Byrd 4, Morrison 9, Hill 4, Bunch 2, Jackson 1

Sunbright (38) Smith 8, Brown 8, Boles 2, Trent 10, Nitzschke 4, Northrup 6.