WHS girls escape again, advance to state semifinals
Stephanie Sturgis - Press Sports Editor
Whether the fans of the Westview girls and the coaching staff agree is a different matter.
After advancing to the TSSAA Class AA State Tournament by surviving a triple overtime thriller in the Sectional round on Saturday, Westview scored the winning basket with 3.8 seconds left in its quarterfinal game to top the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones 51-49 on Wednesday in Murfreesboro. The win advances the Lady Chargers to Friday's semifinals.
Westview will next take on the Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats at 1 on Friday afternoon in Murfreesboro. Livingston upset McMinn Central, 64-54, in the other Class AA semifinal on Wednesday night.
"Unbelievable," Westview head coach Sean Stephenson said of his team's win over Elizabethton in what was a close game throughout.
"We were fortunate to make one more shot than they did," the Lady Charger mentor said.
Lady Cyclone head coach Len Dugger also noted the game came down to a single shot.
"I have a lot of respect for them after playing against them. They made one more play than we did. We just couldn't get a stop," Dugger said.
For the second consecutive game, the Westview girls barely avoided elimination by staying completely composed in the game's crucial final minutes.
Elizabethton bumped its lead to six points, 41-35, on a Mariah Pietrowski stickback with 5:37 left in the fourth quarter. Pietrowski, a 6-1 senior post player, dominated the paint and caused huge problems for the Westview defense, but didn't score again in the contest. She finished with a team-high 18 points for EHS.
The Cyclone lead was almost immediately sliced in half when Amber Rechis drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing. Rechis buried five shots from 3-point range. As a team, the Westview girls tied the state tournament record with 10 made 3-pointers. The 2006 Greenfield Lady Yellowjacket team is one of eight other teams which made 10 3-pointers in a state game.
Elizabethton then took nearly a minute off the clock before point guard Kristen Powell drove in and missed a layup. Breanna Pitcher pulled down the rebound for Westview.
Sophomore guard Jacey Sims calmly knotted the score at 41-all with a shot from behind the arc with 4:03 left in the fourth.
"I had to left it go for my team. It was time for me to step up," Sims said of her key shot.
"That was huge because they had locked on Amber (Rechis). Jacey has made some huge shots for us down the stretch," Stephenson said.
Sara Olds drew a charge on Lady Cyclone Chelsea Bowling. Westview took the lead when Rechis drove down the side of the lane and scored on a runner. Fouled on the play, she hit the free throw for a 44-41 WHS advantage with 3:17 showing on the clock.
Elizabethton's Kamra Fritz erased the Westview lead with a trey — her fourth of the game — for the sixth tie of the game.
Grace Ann Swaim drove into the paint for a layup to boost Westview back on top with 2:31 remaining.
A Bowling long-range shot put Elizabethton back in the driver's seat at 47-46 at the two-minute mark.
Elizabethton's Jasmine Jeffer-son then picked off a Westview pass and Swaim fouled her trying to get the ball back. Jefferson nailed both free throws to lift the EHS lead to 49-46 with 1:48 left in the game.
Following a Cyclone timeout, Rechis got a screen and found room to launch another 3-pointer. The shot found the bottom of the net, forging a 49-all tie with 1:34 remaining on the clock.
The Lady Cyclones again turned to their big player in the paint, but Westview finally got a hand on the ball. Fritz's pass to Pietrowski was tipped away by Pitcher. With the ball rolling toward the corner, Pitcher dove on it and was immediately surrounded by Lady Cyclones. She called a timeout to save possession for WHS with the score tied at 49-all and 65 seconds left.
"I was trying to catch their attention and call timeout, when I saw them point and heard the whistle. For a sophomore, that's a heady play," the WHS coach said of Pitcher calling timeout.
The Lady Chargers took full advantage of the possession, running time off the clock before beginning the game-winning play. Sara Olds caught a pass at the free-throw line and found Rechis curling into the paint. Rechis let loose a six-footer that found touched nothing but net with 3.8 seconds left to play.
Elizabethton called timeout to talk strategy. After a WHS timeout and another Cyclone timeout, play finally resumed.
Stephenson sent 5-11 freshman Caitlin Campbell in to distract the inbound passer. The plan worked as the EHS pass went directly to Westview's Sims who caught the ball and dribbled away from pressure as time expired.
Westview's Rechis, in addition to getting the final points in the game, also scored the contest's first basket, part of a game-high 28-point effort.
Rechis was hot in the first quarter, connecting on her first two 3-point shots. Swaim also hit a trey and Pitcher nailed a deep 3-ball to beat the buzzer for a 14-12 Westview lead after a quarter.
"I can't say enough about Amber (Rechis). She put us on her back," Stephenson said.
Westview built its lead to five points twice in the second quarter. The last such gap came at 21-16 on a Swaim layup with 4:50 left in the first half.
Westview didn't score again in the half, while Elizabethton reeled off 10 consecutive points. Pietrowski had four points, Fritz hit a 3-pointer and Bowling beat the halftime horn from behind the 3-point arch for a 26-21 Cyclone lead at the half.
TSSAA State Tournament
Class AA Quarterfinals
March 11 at Murfreesboro
Westview (51) — Amber Rechis 28, Grace Ann Swaim 7, Jacey Sims 6, Sara Olds 5, Breanna Pitcher 5.
Elizabethton (49) — Mariah Pietrowski 18, Kamra Fritz 14, Chelsea Bowling 11, Jasmine Jefferson 4, Kristen Powell 2.
3-pointers: Westview — Rechis (5), Sims (2), G. Swaim, Olds, Pitcher; Elizabethton — Fritz (4), Bowling (3).
Records: Westview 31-5, Elizabethton 27-8.