MURFREESBORO – The North Greene girls basketball team battled to the final horn on Wednesday evening in the Class 1A State Tournament quarterfinals, but that should come as no surprise because that is all the Lady Huskies have done this year.
This time the Lady Huskies came up short of proving the naysayers wrong again as they fell 55-45 to Van Buren County, but they left the court knowing they gave it everything had.
“This is my 22nd team, but I don’t know how I couldn’t say this is my favorite,” North Greene coach James Buchanan said. “What they have been able to accomplish and overcome despite all the adversity is so impressive. I’m not an idiot, and I know what everybody was saying and what everybody was thinking. But these girls had more than a great run this year. We’ve played for a championship in this building, and we’ve played in the semis in this building, but this is one of the greatest years I’ve had coaching.”
Going into the year no one expected North Greene to be back in the state tournament for the fourth straight year, and as the season progressed those odds seemed to get longer as injuries mounted. But that never seemed to matter to the Lady Huskies as they came into practice every day with the goal of simply winning the next one. Eventually that mentality had them as one of the final eight teams standing in Class 1A.
“Every game everyone kept asking how we did it, things kept happening and people had their doubts, but the only thing we can credit this to is God,” North Greene senior guard Grace Buchanan said. “I’m thankful for these girls, all of them. None of them ever gave up, not for one second in any game. I’m just very thankful for the people that I got to play with.”
The Lady Huskies certainly had their chances on Wednesday, and in the first half they played the game exactly how they wanted to give themselves a chance.
North Greene was able to keep the pace slow and the score low in the early going, and midway through the first quarter the score was tied at 2-2.
Hannah Miller was able to score the final five points of the period, including a three-pointer from the left wing that gave North Greene a 7-4 lead.
In the second quarter Van Buren briefly went in front at 8-7 when Cara Mills made a layup. North Greene was able to swing back in front and went up 12-8 when Cambell Gaby sank a three-pointer from the left wing.
The Eaglettes scored the final six points of the quarter over the final 1:46 including a pair of runners in the lane by Layla Bouldin that gave Van Buren a 14-12 lead at the break.
North Greene was able to regain the lead early in the third quarter after Haley Bailey laid one in off of an inbound play and then pulled up for a jumper in the lane that made it 16-14.
From there the teams alternated shots with Sonya Wagner and Miller each scoring four points for North Greene.
The Lady Huskies’ last lead came at 24-22 with 4:01 left in the third quarter when Miller made two at the Charity stripe.
After that the Lady Huskies came up empty on a series of possessions while Van Buren scored eight consecutive points with Mills and Greta Rigsby scoring inside while Bouldin knocked down a pull up from the Elbow to give the Eaglettes a 30-24 lead.
Wagner was able to break the streak with a free throw, but Van Buren went to the fourth quarter leading 34-27.
With 6:50 left in the game Emily Allen knocked down the Eaglettes only three-pointer of the day to push the advantage to 38-27.
Wagner was able to get North Greene going again by scoring on an offensive rebound and then rolling in a jumper from the top of the key.
Despite that Van Buren took its biggest lead at 47-35 when Rigsby made a pair of free throws with 4:30 left to play.
Just three seconds prior Wagner picked up her fifth foul and things looked bleak for North Greene, but the Lady Huskies had one last run left in them.
Mercy Buchanan launched a three-pointer to close the gap to 47-40 with 3:23 left to play. A minute later Gaby hit from behind the arc and looked to have closed the gap to four points, but the shot was waived off because of a foul by Van Buren away from the ball.
North Greene was able to make it a for-point game at 49-45 with 1:03 left after Grace Buchanan sank a straight-away trey and Bailey put back a miss. But that was where North Greene’s comeback ended as it could not get another shot to fall.
Wagner led North Greene on Wednesday with 15 points, Miller finished with 13 points while Bailey had six points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
Bouldin scored 21 points for Van Buren with 11 of those coming at the foul line. On the day the Eaglettes shot 27 free throws to North Greene’s 11. Rigsby had 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Mills had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Seniors Grace Buchanan, Wagner and Gaby are the first North Greene athletes to advance to the state tournament all four years of their high school careers, but they were quick to praise all of their teammates for making that possible.
“I don’t know that I’ll ever say that I went to state all four years, We Went,” Grace Buchanan said. “Every year whenever we get to the last game, we always thank those that came before us. They showed us how to treat the younger girls and how to lead the team.”
North Greene 7 5 15 18 45
Van Buren County 4 10 20 21 55
North Greene: Wagner 15, Miller 13, Bailey 6, Gaby 5, G Buchanan 3, M Buchanan 3
Van Buren County: Bouldin 21, Rigsby 13, Mills 10, Allen 9, Crain 2