Slow start dooms JCHS in region championship loss to Boone

The Jefferson County Lady Patriots finished runner-up in the Region 1-AAA tournament after Wednesday’s loss to Daniel Boone. JCHS will visit Bearden in the Class AAA sectional round.

DANDRIDGE — Fifth-ranked Daniel Boone finally got to atone for last year’s loss in the Region 1-AAA Tournament championship game and claim its first regional title in 15 years, as the Lady Trailblazers rolled into Dumplin Valley and grabbed a 47-31 victory over homestanding Jefferson County Wednesday night.

The Lady Patriots were held scoreless for more than 12 minutes to begin the contest, and they never recovered from Boone’s early onslaught.

With the win, the Lady Blazers improved to 29-4 on the year with their second win over Jefferson County this season, and they will host Oak Ridge on Saturday in the Class AAA Sectional for a spot in the state tournament next week in Murfreesboro.

The loss dropped the Lady Patriots to 22-11 on the campaign, and they must go to Region 2-AAA champion Bearden Saturday night and win to make the state tournament. The Lady Bulldogs defeated Oak Ridge Wednesday night in their region title game, 57-45.

“When I looked in their eyes before we went out there on the floor, I felt pretty good, but when we got out there, they were just hesitant,” JCHS coach Rick Sinard said. “We just couldn’t make a shot. We finally got going in the second half, but we never could put any real pressure on them.

“Daniel Boone is a good basketball team, and they deserve to be where they are at. We just had no answer for them, no answer at all.”

Daniel Boone’s Macie Culbertson, a Belmont signee, scored the first two baskets of the game, and Carson-Newman signee Sydney Pearce added a bucket in the paint to increase the lead to 6-0. The score remained the same for nearly three minutes before Bayleigh Carmichel converted a three-point play, and she scored again with 3.8 seconds left in the first period to make it 11-0 after one.

The Lady Blazers hit two early free throws in the second period before a four-minute dry spell, and the Lady Patriots continued to miss shots during that stretch until Makayla Alvey hit a runner for the home team to get Jefferson County on the board with 3:43 left in the half. That was the only points of the half for JCHS, as Boone scored the final six points of the frame to take a commanding 19-2 lead at halftime.

Ryleigh Fritz hit a 3-pointer right out of the gates for Jefferson County to begin the second half, and it got the Lady Patriot offense on track. Fritz added another triple later in the frame, but the problem for JCHS was Carmichel. The junior answered the home team’s advances with a three-point play and a putback layup, and Culbertson buried a triple from 25-feet as the third quarter horn was about to sound, making it a 31-13 lead entering the fourth.

Culbertson added a bucket in the first 30 seconds of the final period to extend the lead to 20, and the Lady Blazers led by as many as 25 after a corner trey from Jaycee Jenkins. Jefferson County cut it 38-24 with 1:56 left after three consecutive 3-pointers from Fritz, Cayla Smith and Alvey, but Pearce ended the 11-0 run by the Lady Patriots with a bucket moments later that sealed the win.

Culbertson led all scorers with 17 points, while Carmichel added a dozen and Jenkins tallied eight in the win. Fritz led the Lady Patriots with 14 points in the loss.

“We have one more game, and we have a chance,” Sinard said of Saturday’s game at Bearden for the state tournament berth. “You want to make it to the region championship game to give yourself that chance, and we have that chance in front of us now.”

All-Tournament Team

Daniel Boone — Macie Culbertson (MVP), Sydney Pearce and Bayleigh Carmichel; Jefferson County — Ryleigh Fritz, Makayla Alvey, Cayla Smith; Morristown West — Blayre Shultz, Caroline Harville; Dobyns-Bennett — Courtney Whitson, Jaden Pullen.