Smyrna’s season was nearly done in due to the 3-ball. That was until the 3-ball saved the Lady Bulldogs.
A Brooklyn Blanchard 3-pointer reset Smyrna’s District 7-AAA tournament quarterfinal game with host Siegel, and then the visitors took advantage where they had the clear advantage. Seven more field goals followed — all of them inside the paint — and Smyrna hit nine free throws to score a 57-44 win.
With the win, the Lady Bulldogs move on to a semifinal game against Blackman, the nation’s top-ranked team, in a 2 p.m. Saturday meeting. Smyrna also secured a spot in the Region 4-AAA tournament thanks to the victory.
Blanchard’s 3 was the 14th attempted by Smyrna and just the fourth made. But it tied the game at 34 with 4:01 remaining in the third quarter. It helped erase what had been a 34-29 lead for Siegel 1:41 earlier.
“I’m always the one not shooting, so my coach was like, ‘you’ve got to shoot.’ As a point guard I had to take it upon myself to put the team on my back,” said Blanchard, who had 13 points. “So I just went out there and shot it.”
The Lady Bulldogs (21-9) closed the game on a 23-10 run by going 7-of-22 from the field — including four points off of eight offensive rebounds — hit 9-of-10 free throws and turned eight Lady Star (10-15) turnovers into 10 points.
Brianne Alexander’s defensive board on one end, offensive rebound and putback on the other gave Smyrna a 36-34 lead one possession after Blanchard’s 3. Alexander scored eight of her team-high 14 points in the final 12 minutes.
“We calmed down a little bit, made more than one or two passes and our bread and butter is with Alexander, get her the ball,” Smyrna coach Shawn Middleton said.
Siegel built a 28-25 halftime lead — just its eighth halftime lead and third against a district opponent this season — by shooting 7-of-16 from the field and 12-of-14 from the free-throw line. Erica Roberts scored 18 of her game-high 19 points before Blanchard’s 3.
Prior to Blanchard’s 3, Siegel turned seven defensive rebounds into six points and 10 turnovers into 18 points. Smyrna also helped out by shooting 10-of-31 from the field with seven offensive rebounds before Blanchard’s shot.
“All year we played a little bit timid and hesitant. Tonight, we played hard and we attacked. The last four or five games we’ve probably played better than we have all year long,” Siegel coach Alan Bush said. “I thought tonight was one of our best performances because we attacked the rim a little bit more and got to the free-throw line. It was just the turnovers and keeping them off the glass that was the big thing.
However, the Lady Stars closed 3-of-11 from the field — 3-pointers from Allison Bush and Rebekah Juergens — and had the eight turnovers. Four of Siegel’s last five possessions ended with turnovers and turned a 48-43 Smyrna lead into the 13-point final margin.
The game had seven lead changes and five ties. This was the fourth straight year the teams met in the quarterfinals. Smyrna leads 3-1.
Smyrna 57, Siegel 44
Sm 13 12 17 15 — 57
Si 11 17 9 7 — 44
Sm-Brooklyn Blanchard 13, Hunt 8, Bolton 8, Moore 2, Brianne Alexander 14, Brady 7, Hughes 5.
Si-Erica Roberts 19, Bush 8, Francescon 2, Clemmer 3, Juergens 3, Wilson 2, Ttracy 7.