Oakland Middle’s girls trailed the entire second half until Kayce Howard hit a running 15-footer with 26 points to give the Lady Chargers a 25-24 win over Rock Springs in the Rutherford County Middle School Tournament quarterfinals.
“I was nervous, I just shot it,” said Howard. “(Coach said to) score so we could get up.”
With the win, fifth-seeded Oakland advanced to the tournament semifinals to face top-seed Christiana on Wednesday.
Rock Springs outscored Oakland 8-5 in the second quarter to take a 12-10 halftime lead, and led through the second half. Kyra Wilder started out the second half with a 3-pointer to give the Lady Knights their biggest lead of the game, 15-10.
As soon as Oakland scored a basket, Rock Springs would answer with one of their own.
Wilder had nine of her 11 points in the second half.
Oakland coach Charlotte Peay called a timeout with 2:18 left and implored her team to get the lead over Rock Springs or its season was over.
“When I called that final timeout, I told them, ‘It’s do or die, you either have to score the last 2:18, or we’re done for the year,'” she said.
Howard scored 12 to lead all scorers, including the last four of the game.
“She normally is our penetrator, our slasher,” said Peay. “She plays hard. She can take over a game, she’s that kind of player. She was in foul trouble early on, and when she gets in foul trouble she’s hesitant to penetrate, and that’s her best attribute to the team is her ability to penetrate.”
Kaici Bivens also had a big shot for Oakland. With Rock Springs leading by 22-18 and just over a minute left, Bivens knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the gap to one.
Wilder stole a pass and took it the length of the court to score on a layup, making it 24-21 in favor of Rock Springs.
Howard scored with 49 seconds left to cut the gap back to one, 24-23.
After a missed shot by Rock Springs, Howard drove the lane and had what turned out to be the game-winner.
Janya Rogers drew a foul with 1.2 seconds left. Rogers had converted 5-of-6 from the free throw line up until that point, but she couldn’t connect on two free throws in the final second.
“That’s what cost us — not hitting free throws, said Rock Springs Middle coach Emily Pollock. “She did great, I told her to keep her head up. She played hard and got rebounds for us and layups.”
Christiana 47, Smyrna 4: Christiana had no problems with 10th-seeded Smyrna. With the game tied at 2, Christiana scored 33 unanswered the rest of the first half to gain full control.
Alexis Whittington scored 15 to lead Christiana. Correna Ellis had 12.
Stewarts Creek 53, Whitworth-Buchanan 12: Brinae Alexander, younger sister of standout Smyrna senior post player Brianne Alexander, scored 30 points to lead Stewarts Creek to victory. Morgan McCrary added 12 points.
Leah Johnson scored eight points for Buchanan.
Blackman 59, La Vergne 16: Second-seed Blackman oustcored La Vergne 18-6 in the first quarter and 19-4 in the second quarter to take a commanding 37-10 halftime lead.
Ja’Leah Goff scored 18 points to lead Blackman. Teammate Mya Fuller added 14 and Bliss Sparks had nine. Lapraisia Ward led La Vergne with eight.