By Maurice Patton
MURFREESBORO – An unexpected spark ignited Summertown’s second-half surge in Friday’s 49-41 Class A state tournament semifinal win over North Greene at Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center.
Freshman guard Karlie Campbell came off the bench for a banged-up Jenna Brazier and contributed three steals and a 3-pointer as the Lady Eagles (29-3) extended a four-point halftime lead to 15 by the end of the third quarter, a margin that North Greene couldn’t overcome after rallying from 14 down in its quarterfinal victory on Wednesday.
“She really gave us the push we needed,” junior post Katie Burdette, who led four double-digit Summertown scorers, said of Campbell – nicknamed “Roo”.
“She’s just a spark,” added senior Hailey Jones. “Any time she comes in on defense, you know the pressure’s going to turn up.”
Brazier, involved in a collision at the end of the first half, aggravated a rib injury and sat out the next 11-plus minutes after helping her team to an 18-14 cushion at the break.
Campbell set up a pair of Jones free throws with a steal early and ripped the North Greene defense yet again to assist on a Burdette basket, as the Lady Eagles opened the third period with eight unanswered points in a 12-2 run. Her trey with 12 seconds remaining in the quarter made it a 33-18 game.
“I think she was a little overwhelmed in the Clarkrange game,” Summertown coach Catie Embrey said. “For her to come in (Friday) at that moment, for our senior point guard, with a senior-heavy team, I think that said a lot for her and said a lot for our team. She was ready for the moment, and the seniors and Katie believe in what she can do.
“She’s only a freshman. I think that’ll be a real confidence builder for her. She gave us a big lift.”
Big, and much needed, in Embrey’s estimation.
“You could tell we weren’t in rhythm, especially offensively,” the coach said. “She looks to share the ball, get the ball up the court and look for the open (player).”
North Greene (27-8), which stunned Gibson County 43-40 in Wednesday’s quarterfinal, made a late run at Summertown as well. Junior post Brooklyn Anderson pulled the Lady Huskies within six, 39-33, with 3:14 left, and a Shelby Davenport 3 got the deficit down to 47-41 with 28 seconds to play.
That was the last gasp for the East Tennesseans as Rylee Long closed out the Lady Eagles’ 15-for-16 performance from the foul line with a pair for the final margin.
“We hadn’t applied any (defensive) pressure to that point; we were concerned with foul trouble,” North Greene coach James Buchanan said. “We’d thought speeding them up would be a mistake, but when you get down (15), you don’t have much choice. Our kids went at it hard, forced some turnovers, got the lid off the basket and made some shots.
“We had to change the pace of play, but we were concerned with their ability to hit free throws. We couldn’t talk them into missing any.”
Burdette finished with 13 points and Kaley Campbell 11 for Summertown; Jones and Long each added 10. Anderson scored a team-high 21 points for North Greene.
Next up for Summertown is a fourth meeting with county and district rival Loretto – a 63-42 semifinal winner over Clay County. The Lady Eagles won both regular-season affairs as well as the Region 6-A title game; the District 12-A tournament semifinal and championship rounds were not held.
It marks the second time in four years — and three tournaments — that Summertown has reached the finals. The Lady Eagles fell to Greenfield in 2018.
“You’ve got two teams out of the same county; I think that’s huge,” Embrey said. “We probably play three or four times every year. They’re probably as sick of us as we are of them.
“I’ve never coached in a state championship. I’m geeked.”
As for Brazier, Embrey fully expects the senior guard to be full-go Saturday.
“Slap a ‘Band-Aid’ on it,” she said. “That’s what we do in Summertown.”
Summertown girls 49, North Greene 41
S 9 9 15 16 — 49
N 6 8 4 23 — 41
Summertown (49) – Jenna Brazier 2, Kaley Campbell 11, Hailey Jones 10, Katie Burdette 13, Rylee Long 10, Karlie Campbell 3
North Greene (41) – Breanna Savage 2, Shelby Davenport 11, Haleigh Bernard 7, Brooklyn Anderson 21,
3-pointers – Summertown 2 (Kl. Campbell, Kr. Campbell), North Greene 2 (Davenport, Bernard)