Lady ‘Canes roll past South Doyle 62-50
Morristown East’s Whitney Donaldson (10) goes up for a shot against South Doyle during Tuesday’s District 2-AAA tournament opening round game at Jefferson County High School in Dandridge. The Lady Hurricanes won 62-50 to advance to the second round of the tournament.
DANDRIDGE — Morristown East’s late-season surge continued Tuesday night in the opening round of the District 2-AAA Girls Basketball Tournament. The Lady Hurricanes beat South Doyle’s defensive strategies all game, winning 62-50.
The Lady Cherokees (8-18) pressed East from the tipoff, but with quick-footed point guard Jordan Hayes in control, the Lady ‘Canes had no trouble breaking it again and again.
“We’ve been pressed forever and there were times when Jordan and Whitney (Donaldson) weren’t healthy, the defense was more successful with it,” Morristown East coach Tracy Cloninger said. “Having your guards that are strong ball handlers, it makes it difficult to press us. They’re warriors and they do a good job pushing the ball down the floor. It was a real advantage.”
Hayes has spent her high school career as an advantage for East and Tuesday night she reached a milestone because of it. Hayes opened the game just 12 points away from 1,000 for her career. Midway through the third period, Hayes broke free for a layup that gave her 1,001. Hayes finished the game with 18 points.
“I figured that if I paid attention to it, it would throw me off,” Hayes said. “So I just played the game and kept it out of my head. We’ve been working real hard in practice and focusing on the game plan.”
The game plan was executed to perfection, with Hayes and Donaldson tapping in layups and hitting 3-pointers in transition. When the Lady Cherokees were able to get into defensive position, often it was Lauren Blalock at the post that got on the scoreboard, especially in the second half. Blalock finished with 14 points.
After falling in four straight tight games to start the new year, the Lady Hurricanes got on a roll, winning five of their last seven, with the only losses coming to Sevier County and top-seed Morristown West. The Lady ‘Canes will get another shot at Sevier County (18-9) in the semifinals, when weather permits.
“We wanted to come into this tournament with momentum and fire,” Cloninger said. “We wanted to refocus and get our goals together. The play hard and they’ve got great effort out there. They’re ready to start again. Today started a new season and we’re 1-0.”
Morristown East charged out to a 23-16 lead in the opening period, with Donaldson providing two big threes. Donaldson kept it going in the second quarter, scoring nine points to help the Lady Hurricanes take a 40-23 lead into halftime. Donaldson finished with a game-high 20 points.
The Lady Cherokees fought back in the second half but were too far behind to make it a ballgame. Sam Gover scored 18 for South Doyle, Karen Donehew had 16 and Chatlin Atchley scored 11.
Cocke County 52, Cherokee 22
In the late game the Lady Red (15-14) took out a season’s worth of frustration on the Lady Chiefs (1-30). Cocke County, the defending conference champion, isn’t used to playing elimination games this early and made short work of the Lady Chiefs, holding them to just 7 points until the third quarter and completely scoreless for a 15-minute span.
“We expected to finish the regular season up there (at the top), but things happen for a reason,” Cocke County coach Jeremy Byrd said. “We were put in this position because we didn’t earn our way up there. It was a good learning experience for us. I’m real happy with how we came out and didn’t take Cherokee for granted.”
Allison Ball scored 13 points for the Lady Red, with Mika Wester adding 12 and Hannah Miller putting in 11. Cherokee got 11 points from Kateea Manis.
Cocke County will face off against Seymour (15-11) in the semifinal round.
By Adam Greene, Tribune Correspondent