MURFREESBORO – The Greeneville girls basketball team started the Class 3A State Tournament about as well as it could have hoped on Tuesday morning, but it could not overcome a third-quarter surge by Livingston Academy and saw its season come to an end.
The Lady Devils built a 16-point lead early in the second quarter, but Livingston outscored them 18-4 in the third quarter before escaping with a 63-60 win.
“I think we played as hard as we could play, but I wish that we had that third quarter to go again,” Greeneville coach Annette Watts said. “To score four points in a quarter and to give up 18 is not normal for our basketball team, but I felt like we left everything we had on the floor. I’m proud of my seniors because they brought us back here.”
The Lady Devils end the year with a 27-9 record, but Greeneville’s five seniors, Lauren Bailey, Lindy Carter, Tambryn Ellenburg, Chloe Marsh and Dalaina Martin, leave the program in a place of prominence that it had not known for over a decade after back-to-back trips to the state tournament.
“I hope that it’s exciting for the younger girls, knowing that the culture of Greeneville basketball has been brought back around,” Bailey said. “We might have lost today, but we kept coming back and we never quit. I feel like that is what Greeneville basketball is now. We are never going to quit. We expect to win big games.”
Tuesday’s third quarter started with Greeneville leading 32-22, but on the Lady Wildcats’ first possession Ellie Butler put a dent in that with a triple.
Early Greeneville kept Livingston at bay with a free throw from Anna Shaw and a three-pointer from Bailey, but over the final 5:30 of the third period the Lady Devils were outscored 13-0 as the Lady Wildcats swung in front at 40-36.
In the period Greeneville was 1-for-10 from the field, and 0-for-9 from inside the arc, as they struggled to get shots to fall over the long Lady Wildcats.
“They made shots and got runs going, and enthusiasm and runs make a basketball game,” Watts said. “Anytime a team can make runs consecutively that momentum builds. I could see our whole body language change, but I couldn’t get it to stop.”
To make matters worse Bailey, the Lady Devils Miss Basketball finalist, picked up her third and fourth fouls in the quarter, which forced her to sit for the first half of the fourth quarter. Bailey picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter as well and only played 18 minutes on Tuesday.
In the fourth quarter Kyla Jobe gave Greeneville an early spark with a pair of jump shots from the paint that brought things back to even at 40-40.
Livingston’s Halle Ledbetter and Greeneville’s Marsh then traded a triple for an old-fashioned-three-point play.
The Lady Wildcats regained the lead for good with 5:37 left to play when Ledbetter made a pair free-throws after being fouled on a third-chance opportunity to make the score 45-43.
The Lady Wildcats’ biggest lead of the night came at 53-47 with 3:07 left when Butler made two at the foul line. Free-throw shooting made a difference for Livingston down the stretch as it went 18-for-22 from the stripe in the fourth quarter, including a 14-for-14 start to the period.
Greeneville regained some life when Carter sank a triple from the right wing that closed the gap to 55-52 with 1:25 left to play.
With 20 seconds left Bailey took a dish from Ellenburg and dropped in three points to keep the Lady Devils hoping at 60-58.
After Mallie Coleman made one charity toss Greeneville got the ball back with 16 seconds left and Bailey charged down the lane and herself to earn a trip to the charity stripe. She made both free ones and got the Lady Devils within one point at 61-60.
Greeneville fouled again with nine seconds and Butler missed the back end of her free throws. Jobe grabbed the board and moved it up the floor where she found Ellenburg in the corner for a potential game-winner, but the shot was off the mark.
Ellenburg got the day off to a red-hot start as she rained in three three-pointers while the Lady Devils built an 18-5 lead.
“When Tambryn made her first one I turned and said, ‘It’s going to be hard to beat us today,’” Watts said. “Of course the adjustment was that they put a bigger girl on her which made it tougher for her to keep getting those shots. But she was fearless, and I was so glad to see her have a fearless game.”
On the defensive end Marsh smothered Butler and held the Lady Wildcats’ top scorer to no points in the first period while she barely had a chance to touch the ball. Then up top Shaw was a pest that prevented the Lady Wildcats from finding the methodical offensive rhythm they were looking for.
Jobe opened the second quarter with a three-pointer from the left side that gave Greeneville its largest lead at 21-5.
On the trip the other way Livingston answered with a triple from Keely Mullins.
Shaw kept Greeneville going with a coast-to-coast layup and then Martin pushed the lead to 28-13 with a turnaround from the paint and a pair of free throws.
The Lady Wildcats followed with seven straight points, including four from Aleah Melton to close the gap to 28-20.
Carter broke the run with a three-pointer and Greeneville went to halftime leading 32-22.
Carter led Greeneville on Tuesday with 12 points, Jobe had 11 and Bailey scored 10. Shaw finished the day with five points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Marsh had eight points and six boards, and Ellenburg had nine points.
Coleman led Livingston with 15 points, Melton had 14, Butler 14 and Ledbetter 12.
Greeneville 18 14 4 24 60
Livingston Academy 5 17 18 23 63
Greeneville: Carter 12, Jobe 11, Bailey 10, Ellenburg 9, Marsh 8, Shaw 5, Martin 5
Livingston Academy: Coleman 15, Melton 14, Butler 4, Ledbetter 12, Mullins 8