The Greeneville girls did not finish as strong as coach Annette Watts would have liked, but they survived to earn a 61-55 win on senior night to secure the top seed in the upcoming District 2-3A Tournament.
“Because of defense we were able to hold on, but we had eight turnovers in that last six minutes,” Watts said. “You can’t do that. You’d think senior night doesn’t affect them, but I think sometimes it does. But Cocke County is a good team and they did some good things tonight.”
The Lady Devils wrap up district play with a perfect 8-0 record. It is the first time since 2007 the Lady Devils have a had a perfect league record and only the third time in program history.
“I don’t think these girls understand how hard it is to do what they have done,” Watts said. “No matter what league you’re in it’s hard to go undefeated. Everybody is out to get you, and you have a target on your back. I’m so happy for this group.”
Tuesday’s fourth quarter started with Greeneville leading 51-37, and 19 seconds into the period Chloe Marsh made a pair free throws to extend that lead to 53-37.
While it looked like Greeneville might run away at that point the Lady Red turned up the pressure on defense and battled back to make the Lady Devils nervous in the final moments.
With 4:18 left Blake Clevenger sank a three-pointer for Cocke County to shrink the deficit to 53-46.
After forcing Greeneville into a few turnovers the margin continued to shrink, and with 2:50 left Halle Kitchen stole possession at midcourt and went the other way for a break-way layup that cut Greeneville’s lead to 54-50.
With two minutes left Lauren Bailey put back an offensive rebound for Greeneville’s first field goal of the fourth quarter.
Cocke County got within four points again at 59-55 when Clevenger hit from deep in the corner. Greeneville threw the ball out of bounds on the ensuing inbound pass which gave the Lady Red a chance to make it a one-possession game. Instead Paige Neithammer missed a layup and Bailey ripped down the rebound that would prove clinching for the Lady Devils.
Bailey led Greeneville with 23 points on Tuesday, but she saved her senior night for possibly her best defensive effort as a Lady Devils, including a difference-making performance on the boards.
“Lauren I thought had some brilliant moments tonight, both on offense and defense tonight. And I don’t get to brag on her defense very much,” Watts said. “I’m really tickled to say she really stepped up and helped, boxed out and rebounded beautifully today. Her rebounding was bigger than anything she did tonight.”
Tuesday’s action started with the teams trading buckets to an 8-8 tie at the midway point. Bailey scored four points for Greeneville while Niethammer and Destiny Reese both scored four for Cocke County.
With 3:46 remaining in the period Tambryn Ellenburg nailed a triple in transition to give the Lady Devils a lead they held the rest of the way.
Over the next two minutes Kyla Jobe and Bailey both connected from deep for the Lady Devils as their lead grew to 19-10.
The first quarter closed with Greeneville leading 21-15.
In the second quarter Cocke County fought back and with 4:50 remaining in the first half Kitchen sank a triple to close the gap to 26-25.
On the trip the other way Anna Shaw got Greeneville going again with a short jumper from the block. Bailey then hit a jumper from the elbow and Jobe followed with a three-pointer that put Greeneville ahead 33-26.
The first half ended with the Lady Devils holding a 34-26 advantage.
Greeneville’s lead grew quickly in the third quarter with Lindy Carter driving to the bucket on the first possession. Ellenburg then stole possession before the ball crossed half court and sank a triple for a 39-26 Greeneville lead.
Reese and Neithammer both scored inside for Cocke County to close the gap to 39-31.
Bailey sank a pair of triples for Greeneville to push the lead to double digits again at 47-37.
The quarter finished Shaw sinking a floater and Jobe scoring in transition for a 51-37 Greeneville lead.
Jobe and Ellenburg both scored 10 points on Tuesday for the Lady Devils. Clevenger led the Lady Red with 19 points and Neithammer put in 14 points.
After Tuesday’s game the Lady Devils honored five seniors, Bailey, Carter, Ellenburg, Marsh and Dalaina Martin, a group that has played a lot of minutes for Greeneville and produced a lot of success.
“Those five players have given me a lot, and they have given Greeneville High School a lot,” Watts said. “From the time they were freshmen their feet were in the fire. They got beat, beat, beat as freshmen. But they didn’t get beat much as sophomores, they sure didn’t get beat much as juniors, and they haven’t gotten beaten much as seniors. That group has knuckled down and played really hard. I’m going to miss them.”
Greeneville 21 13 17 10 61
Cocke County 15 11 11 18 55
Greeneville: Bailey 23, Ellenburg 10, Jobe 10, Shaw 8, Carter 4, Marsh 4, Martin 2
Cocke County: Clevenger 19, Neithhammer 14, Nealy 7, Reese 6, Kitchen 5, Reed 4