PORTLAND The third time really was the charm for the Beech High girls basketball team.
The Lady Buccaneers learned from two prior losses to cross-town rival Hendersonville, using those lessons to capture a 49-46 victory over the Lady Commandos in Thursday evening’s District 9-AAA Tournament quarterfinal at Portland High School.
The sixth-seeded Lady Buccaneers (10-19) allowed 12 3-pointers in the two teams’ meeting at Hendersonville six days earlier, but they were committed to stopping second-seeded Hendersonville’s outside shooting efforts. It worked as the Lady Commandos (17-9) made only one 3-pointer in the game.
“We learned that we can’t give (Hendersonville) a 3-pointer, and I think they had one,” Beech interim head coach Troy Carnes said. “We made a mistake on that one. We didn’t make another one though.”
However, a 3-pointer turned out to be one of the biggest plays of the game for Beech. Junior guard McCall Decker connected on a 25-foot shot as time expired in the third quarter to give the Lady Bucs a 30-25 lead entering the fourth quarter.
It ended a period in which Beech outscored Hendersonville, 15-4.
“That was a big three,” Beech senior point guard Deja Smith said. “It boosted our momentum so much. We fed off of that energy.”
Smith matched a career-high with 28 points, with 13 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Smith made 10 of 13 free throws in the final period to help Beech gain – and keep – the lead after Hendersonville had opened the fourth quarter by scoring seven unanswered points.
“We knew that we couldn’t lose to them a third time, so we had to play twice as hard as we did the last time,” Smith said. “The last time, it wasn’t great. We knew that we just had to come out and play hard.”
Freshmen Kendra Mueller and Kennedy Powell each made two free throws during a stretch that saw Beech turn a one-point lead (35-34) into a 41-34 edge with 2:15 to play.
“I think my girls … we played a little tight,” Hendersonville head coach Drew Johnson said. “We played really hard, but we were a little tight, not wanting to make mistakes or shoot the wrong shot. Beech was able to play with a no-lose type mentality, and that’s the best way to be able to play.”
Hendersonville jumped out to a 14-6 lead in the first quarter and led by as many as nine points (18-9) in the first half. However, Beech cut its deficit to four (21-17) prior to halftime.
“There wasn’t a whole lot that (Beech) did different, but shots just weren’t falling,” Johnson said. “When we’re shooting the ball well, we’re as good as anybody. When we’re not, we have to figure out ways to score.”
Senior point guard Carleigh Short – a Lipscomb University signee – led the Lady Commandos with 13 points.
Hendersonville had won four of the last five meetings with Beech.
“It’s a real numbing and almost surreal-type feeling,” Johnson said. “I didn’t come into this game thinking that we were automatically going to win, but I definitely felt like we’d be up to the challenge. We knew we’d get a good game out of Beech.”
Hendersonville claimed a 58-40 win over the visiting Lady Bucs on Feb. 13 and won the first meeting at Beech by a 45-39 margin on Jan. 19.
Hendersonville loses three seniors to graduation – Short, Joslyn Jarrett and Elizabeth Burns.
Beech advanced to Saturday’s semifinal round to face second-seeded Mt. Juliet and also earned a regional berth.
Reach Chris Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 615-575-7118. Follow him on Twitter @CB_SumnerSports.
BEECH (49) – Deja Smith 28, McCall Decker 6, Reese Taylor 5, Kendra Mueller 4, Savannah Jarratt 2, Kennedy Powell 2, Destiny Tinker 2.
HENDERSONVILLE (46) – Carleigh Short 13, Brooke Long 11, Peyton Sheehan 8, Joslyn Jarrett 7, Makenzie Branch 4, Morgan Wettengel 2, Makensie Cotter 1.
Half: 21-17, Hendersonville. Three-point goals: Beech 2 (Decker 2), Hendersonville 1 (Jarrett 1). Records: Beech 10-19, Hendersonville 17-9.