By J.P. Plant
SUMMERTOWN — In what could have been the final game ever at Summertown’s historic gym as a Class A school, the Lady Eagles certainly went out on a high note soaring to an 85-62 sectional win Saturday night over Jo Byrns.
This marks the fourth time in five years this team will be dancing at Murphy Center on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University — but just the second time advancing off its home floor.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Hailey Jones said. “As a senior it’s exactly where you want to be — with the whole town behind you in this environment.”
Coaching in a home sectional matchup was a bucket list item for Lady Eagles coach Catie Embrey — something she can now check off.
“It was everything I hoped it would be,” Embrey said with a big smile on her face. “For these seniors to be able to run out onto this court one last time — it meant everything to me and to them.
“I was a little emotional before the game. We all knew we had just one more. It’s been a little bit of an emotional rollercoaster today.”
Those pregame emotions were quickly channeled into 3-pointers as the hosts knocked down 11 in the game, including five in the first quarter. Jo Byrns went toe-to-toe with Summertown in that opening frame even holding a lead at 18-17 before three 3s ended the quarter — one each by Ansley Burleson, Kaley Campbell and Karlie Campbell giving the Lady Eagles a 26-19 edge at the end of the quarter.
Summertown outscored the Lady Red Devils 19-11 in the second primarily trading 2s for 3s hitting four more from behind the arc taking a 45-30 halftime lead. Jo Byrns never got any closer as Summertown’s lead ballooned to 27 at 72-45 midway through the fourth.
“We shared the basketball so well tonight,” Embrey said after the game. “We were able to put the players in the right spot and then able to find them for the easy baskets. (Katie) Burdette was huge tonight especially guarding their 6-3 post player. Hailey saw that Rylee (Long) was shooting it well so she kicked Rylee to the perimeter and she went to the post and was able to take it to the basket. They just know each other so well and have so much chemistry together.”
“We had a lot of injuries this past week but we just kept pushing through it and worked really well together tonight,” said Jones while watching her team cut down the nets following the game.
“I think the key tonight was to just trust everyone on the floor,” senior point guard Jenna Brazier said. “All the seniors know each other’s game and really play well off of each other.”
Brazier and Kaley Campbell were contributing members as eighth-graders on the 2016-17 team that defeated sectional foe Moore County in Lynchburg.
“It feels like we deserved it a little more this time but still as exciting as it was when I was in eighth grade,” Brazier said.
With 23 points, Kaley Campbell four Summertown double-digit scorers while Jo Byrns’ Brooke Dowlen finished with a game-high 25 points; her teammate Grayson Bryant added 20 in the loss.
The season ends for the Lady Red Devils with an 18-5 record. Summertown improves to 27-3 and will face Clarkrange — a 72-37 sectional winner over Fayetteville — at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Class A state quarterfinals at Murphy Center on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.
Summertown is slated to compete next season in District 10-AA, along with Loretto, Mt. Pleasant, Giles County and Lewis County.
Despite the 23-point win Coach Embrey still has some coaching points to keep her team engaged.
“We don’t give up this many points usually,” she said. “Hats off to Jo Byrns as they played really well — better than we anticipated. We were just able to do what we needed to do to get the win.”
That “foot-on-the-gas” mentality keeps her team driven as they advance further towards a state championship.
“We’re just going to focus on whoever they put in front us. Next one up — that’s our focus.”
County sweep: With Loretto’s 60-32 sectional victory Saturday at Houston County, District 12-A will send both its champion and runner-up to the upcoming state tournament. Karly Weathers scored a game-high 27 points for the Lady Mustangs (18-7), who scored 23 points in the second period to take a 36-19 halftime lead.
Houston County (22-3), which had a nine-game winning streak snapped with the homecourt loss, was led offensively by Hailey Hibbeler with 16 points.
Loretto will face Cloudland, which defeated Oneida 50-46 Saturday night, in an 11:30 a.m. state quarterfinal clash Wednesday at MTSU.
Summertown girls 85, Jo Byrns 62
JB 19 11 15 17 — 62
ST 26 19 17 23 — 85
Jo Byrns (62) — Ashlen Bryant 6, Grayson Bryant 20, Brooke Dowlen 25, Reese Payne 8, Millie Parham 3
Summertown (85) — Kaley Campbell 23, Hailey Jones 16, Rylee Long 17, Katie Burdette 14, Ansley Burleson 3, Reese Wilson 4, Karlie Campbell 6, Braley Burleson 2
3-pointers — Jo Byrns 6 (G. Bryant 3, Dowlen 3), Summertown 11 (Kl. Campbell 5, Long 3, A. Burleson, Kr. Campbell 2)
Loretto girls 60, Houston Co. 32
L 13 23 8 16 — 60
H 12 7 10 3 — 32
Loretto (60) — Jenny Clifton 5, Julie Clifton 2, Madelyn Tidwell 11, Autumn Buttrum 2, Karly Weathers 27, Carlie Urban 1, Kensey Weathers 6, Shelby Fisher 5, Emily Cozart 1
Houston Co. (32) — Hailey Hibbeler 16, Josey Gant 2, Tess Gillespie 3, Karlie Stinson 6, Hannah McDonough 5
3-pointers — Loretto 5 (Je. Clifton, Tidwell 2, Ka. Weathers 2), Houston Co. 3 (Hibbeler 2, Gillespie)