By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
Not so long ago, the Union City girls were “that team,” according to Eddie Suiter
Now the Lady Tornadoes are “that team” for another reason.
No. 1-ranked Union City made it back-to-back regional tournament championships with its 18th straight victory Tuesday night, beating Lake County 54-43 for the 7A title before a large crowd at the Twister gymnasium.
A program that was void of much significant history until the past couple of seasons will now host a sectional game for the second time ever and in as many years Saturday night when UC (29-3) plays the Region 8A runnerup — either Middleton (22-9) or Madison Academic (23-10) — in search of back-to-back state tournament appearances.
Game time Saturday is 7 p.m., and tickets will be pre-sold to the public from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Friday at UCHS.
After watching tournament MVP Tory Reedy pour in a game-high 22 points and his team limit Lake County to just 18 points over the first three periods with another stellar defensive effort, Suiter paused briefly to consider how the Lady Tornado program has become relevant in the past couple of years.
“When I first came here, I felt like a lot of other programs looked at their schedule and saw Union City and circled it as a game they were going to win without question,” said the Union City coach, who is now in his fourth season at the helm after successful stints at Obion Central, Spring Hill and Fulton City. “I can still remember telling the girls in just about every meeting that we had when I first came here that at some point, we were going to get where we would compete every night.
“I didn’t say compete for a district championship or a berth in the state tournament, I just said ‘compete.’ That’s still our mission every night out. We’re going to lose Tory to graduation this year, but every year after last year and this year, I want people who play us to know when they look at their schedule that we’re ‘that team’ that’s going to get after you every night on the defensive end when you play us.”
UC’s closest game in the aforementioned long winning streak came when the locals had to rally in the fourth quarter to beat Lake County 51-42 in one of two regular season meetings between the two earlier this month.
And the Lady Falcons (16-11) — who lost a first matchup with Union City by 24 points in November — again tested the Twister girls on Tuesday.
The Tornadoes led from wire-to-wire, though, beginning when Raven Fair made a 3-pointer 30 seconds into the contest.
Reedy bottomed a trey a half-minute later and then made two free throws after a Jackie Hudson bucket to give UC a 10-2 lead before the game was six minutes old.
UC’s largest lead was 17 (35-18) in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter when Tamara Nettles scored off an inbounds play.
Lake County did battle back to within seven twice — both times on buckets by Shamon Pearson, who scored 12 of her team-best 19 points in the fourth period — but the Lady Twisters made enough of their free throws (13-21) in the final frame to keep the visitors at bay.
“We’ve got people who started out as role players for us, and now they’re folks we count on some to make plays and shots at critical times,” Suiter added. “When you play a team for the third time in a season like we did tonight, there’s always adjustments on both sides.
“To be honest, though, we don’t make a lot of adjustments — we just expect our kids to continue to play hard. We might put a couple in a couple of different spots, but we’re not real complicated with what we do.”
Up just 19-15 at the half, Union City began to pull away by scoring the first nine points of the third period while holding LC without a field goal until the 41-second mark when Wakeelha Jones sank a 3-pointer to snap an 0-for-9 streak.
Reedy bottomed a triple and then converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to give UC its first double-digit lead earlier in the frame, then countered Jones’ trifecta with one of her own to make it 31-18 at the third-quarter horn.
“Tory’s not the quickest player, she’s not the best athlete, but she’s no doubt a fantastic competitor who knows the game and puts both herself and her teammates in the best positions to succeed and excel,” Suiter said of the tourney’s most outstanding player.
She was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Hudson and Nettles.
Pearson and Tiana Gray were selected to the glitter unit from Lake County.
Union City played without the services of starting center Kaleigh Bynum, who was not in uniform due to an in-school issue. She is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday night, according to Suiter.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
REGION 7A TOURNAMENT
LAKE COUNTY — 43
Shamon Pearson 19, Wakeelha Jones 10, Tiana Gray 10, Yancy 2, Wiggins 2.
UNION CITY — 54
Tory Reedy 22, Reaves 9, Hudson 7, Fair 7, Nettles 5, Skinner 4.
LC 4 11 3 25 — 43
UC 10 9 12 23 — 54
Records: LC 16-11, UC 29-3.
Next Games: Both teams advance on to sectional play Saturday night at 7, LC at the winner of tonight’s Region 8 championship game between Middleton and Madison Academic, and UC at vs. the loser of that contest.
Published in The Messenger 2.27.13