McKENZIE – Whether it was last year’s state quarterfinal against Loretto or a recent district tournament win over then-undefeated West Carroll, Dresden junior Jacqueline Ellis has proven she’s not afraid of a big game.
She showed it again Wednesday, scoring eight consecutive Dresden points in the third quarter as the Lady Lions knocked off Greenfield 53-44 in a must-win Region 7-A semifinal.
A year after its first trip to the state tournament since 1990, Dresden (23-9) is back in a sectional Monday and thus one step away from returning to Murfreesboro.
Ellis led all scorers with 16 points and Carrie Hatchel added 12. Dresden coach Jonathan West said many people know that Hatchel and Alex Sledd have dealt with injuries but don’t realize Ellis missed three months of offseason work with an ankle injury.
“Now you’re seeing what we saw out of her all summer until that happened,” West said. “We got Carrie back. Hailey [Browning] is playing well. This is kind of the team we envisioned coming out of last year and we didn’t have that until the end of the year. It may have helped us out in the long run.”
Hatchel should also play a key role going forward.
“She brings experience and ball handling and she can shoot. She’s just an all-around really good player,” Ellis said of Hatchel.
Dresden built a large lead by outscoring Greenfield 14-1 in the second quarter. The Lady Lions broke through with 3s by Hatchel and Ellis and then added two quick baskets in the final 10 seconds.
Ellis got a lucky bounce on a fourth-quarter 3 to give Dresden a 38-20 lead, but Greenfield (25-7) scored the next 10 points in part with an aggressive full court press. Aubrey Riggs and Amy Wright each hit 3s to trigger a rally.
Alle Dees (13 points) and Brittany Peoples also hit 3s, but the closest Greenfield got was six points. Still, Hatchel earned a technical after getting frustrated with heavy contact and Dresden overall seemed thrown off at times as Greenfield fought back.
“It was good to be able to see those type things and for us to have that bad moment because that’s happened to us against them both games, and the other two games we didn’t weather it. We just folded,” West said.
“I think it does help because we’re gonna see that more and more as we go on to substate and there’s going to be more contact and everything,” Ellis said.
Dresden will play Gibson County tonight for the region title and a chance to host a sectional Monday. The loser will travel for its sectional game.
Craig Thomas, 425-9634