GATLINBURG—The Jefferson County Lady Patriots saw a win slip away from them in a matter of seconds against Gatlinburg-Pittman on the road Thursday.
With the game tied at 51 apiece, the Lady Highlanders showed just how important free throws are. G-P’s Sydney McCarty only needed to make one shot at the line as the score was tied with 0.8 seconds left. McCarty did just that, securing the 52-51 victory for the Lady ‘Landers.
Jeff County (1-1) picked up the lead in the game with just over four minutes remaining. It was the Lady Patriots’ first lead since the beginning of the first quarter against G-P.
“We did what we had to do to tie the game,” Jefferson County’s head coach Jeremy Byrd said. “(Gatlinburg-Pittman) was able to get the ball in around our pressure. We tried to force a turnover and as G-P split the defense, we had a hustle foul. I don’t fuss at the girls for that foul. The ball was there, we just didn’t come up with it.”
Unfortunately, the costly foul with just under a second to go put McCarty for the game-winning foul shot.
G-P’s win was led by Taylor Reed (15) and Maddy Newman (13) combined 28 points. McCarty entered nine points.
The Lady Patriots’ attempt at the comeback victory was muchly aided by Tara Scales’ 21 points and five steals. Alexa Gramann followed with nine.
Scales had Jeff County going in the first quarter but 13 turnovers in the first half created by the Lady ‘Landers’ press quickly changed the game.
“I have to give all the credit to (G-P’s) press,” Byrd said. “We weren’t prepared for it. After we finally found ways around it, they had a double-digit lead. When you get down 10 points early, it’s hard to close out the deal. Although, we did take the lead there late. The next time we are in that same situation at late in the game, I don’t see us making the same mistakes.”
G-P created a 23-9 lead midway through the second quarter as the Lady Patriots struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
All of a sudden in the fourth quarter, a switch was turned on for the Lady Patriots as they went on a 15-5 run for a 45-43 lead after back-to-back 3-pointers from Scales and Gramann.
“We got into the locker room at halftime and I just told the girls what opportunities they had to win this game,” Byrd said. “I saw us become much better grabbing rebounds in the second half. That helped us out a lot. We knew we had to amp up the energy in the last two quarters after such a sluggish start.”
Makenzie Alvey, who struggled through three quarters, came up big with a steal that led to free throws for Jeff County to grab a 49-48 lead. After G-P took a 51-49 lead, Alvey had the game-tying bucket with nine seconds left.
“Alvey has a mental toughness to her,” Byrd said. “She got into her own head, yeah. I think she was able to get back into rhythm rather quickly in the fourth quarter. She knows what she is doing and she was a big part in what we do on both sides of the ball.”
The Lady Patriots will play in the Thanksgiving Tournament on Nov. 23-28 next time on the court.
SPARK BY SCALES
Despite the loss, Scales led her team in points and steals while generating the spark needed for the Lady Patriots to get going.
She notched four of the six points scored by Jeff County in the first quarter. While Scales was on the bench, the Lady Patriots saw their deficit grow to double digits.
“I think that when we were down, we just needed to step up,” Scales said. “Coach Byrd wanted us to press the ball more and we did that as a team. I think we all came together while I was out there on defense. We all were able to get some steals.”
Once Scales entered back into the game in the second quarter, she scored six of the 10 points in the final three minutes of the first half and only trailed by six at half.
The junior point guard came into the second half tallying 11 of her 21 points, including two triples—one 3-pointer giving Jeff County the momentum boost needed to grab the lead late.
“We were in a good position to win the game,” Scales said. “I think the biggest thing we can learn from this loss is taking care of the ball in transition. The turnovers really hurt us late in the game.”
It wasn’t just her offensive production, though. Scales managed five steals to disrupt any flow that G-P had going while she was on the floor.
The spark she provided while on the court for the Lady Patriots did not go unnoticed.
“Scales understands she is the general when she’s out there,” Byrd said. “Her court vision is amazing. Defensively, she took action in forcing turnovers. She gave the opponent’s guards such a hard time.”
Jefferson County (51): Tara Scales 21, Alexa Gramann 9, Kali McMahan 6, Makenzie Alvey 6, Lily Beth Johnston 5, Zoie Denton 2, Sydney Docker 2.
Gatlinburg-Pittman (52): Taylor Reed 15, Maddy Newman 13, Sydney McCarty 9, Bailey Lane 9, Kirby McCollister 2, Rylee Henry 2, Lily Stinnett 2.