MURFREESBORO — Upperman’s Akira Levy had three of her most uneventful quarters of the season in Wednesday’s Class AA quarterfinal against Haywood.
Fortunately for the Lady Bees, the sophomore Miss Basketball finalist followed them up with probably her most productive, piling up 20 fourth-quarter points to help erase her team’s double-digit deficit and eventually capture a 41-35 victory at MTSU’s Murphy Center.
“I got onto her and challenged her a little bit,” Upperman coach Dana McWilliams said of Levy, who battled foul trouble throughout Wednesday’s come-from-behind win. “I told her my game plan didn’t have anything to do with her sitting over here.”
Upperman (34-2) will face McMinn Central in Friday’s 4:30 p.m. Class AA semifinal.
Levy, a 5-foot-6 guard, was whistled twice in the first quarter, picked up a third foul midway through the second and, by the three-minute mark of the third, she had been tagged with No. 4.
“Brooke (Farris) came off the bench and did a pretty good job of handling our team,” said Levy, who saw just 17 minutes of action on Wednesday. “I wasn’t really worried; I was more mad at myself for getting four fouls, but I knew my team could handle it.”
Her teammates did their best to keep things close, but Levy’s absence, along with the Lady Bees’ poor shooting performance (32.5 percent), made things difficult.
“Haywood is a good defensive team and they put a lot of pressure on you,” McWilliams said. “We had a lot of open looks that we normally make — we’ve shot over 40 percent from the 3-point line this season — and I don’t know. It was just bad.”
By the time Levy finally returned to start the fourth, Haywood, which outrebounded Upperman 31-19 through the first three quarters, had stretched its lead to 12.
Levy tallied six points in the opening 1:31 of the fourth, and, following a basket from Haywood’s Tamia Tharpe, she converted a difficult three-point play to pull the Lady Bees to within five with 6:29 remaining.
“I just felt like in the fourth quarter we hesitated when we shouldn’t have in certain situations,” Lady Tomcats coach Whitney Bird said. “I had to burn three timeouts in the fourth quarter to calm us down, and they threw a press at us and we weren’t ready for it at the time.
“There for a second I think we just freaked out.”
Minutes later, Levy, who finished with a game-high 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting, added a layup to spot Upperman a 36-35 advantage — its first lead since the game’s opening minute — and Levy knocked down 5 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final minute to seal the win.
“She stepped up to the challenge,” McWilliams said. “She’s young, but she showed a lot of maturity and exactly why she’s a Miss Basketball finalist.”