By Noah McKay
MURFREESBORO – The Upperman Lady Bees bid for a repeat Class 3A state championship came to an end in a 44-31 loss against the Jackson South Side Lady Hawks in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament.
The Lady Hawks (32-0) used a strong third quarter and physical defense to propel themselves to the semifinal round.
“The kids did a great job,” said UHS head coach Dana McWilliams. “It was just so physical out there. Maybe that’s something we’re going to have to teach a little bit more so maybe we can match that a little bit better.”
The game was a defensive battle throughout, with neither team taking a lead of more than three points during the first half, leading to a 15-15 tie at halftime.
JSS opened up a four-point lead with back-to-back threes to make it 21-17.
The Lady Bees found themselves in foul trouble later in the third quarter, with three Lady Bees being charged with at least three personal fouls. JSS answered by scoring eight of the final 10 points in the frame to take a 29-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
The JSS defense continued to stifle the UHS offense, but the Lady Bees were able to cut the deficit to 33-26 on two free throws by Jayla Cobb. The Lady Hawks answered by making nine free throws in the final minutes to secure the victory.
“I really could not be more proud of them,” said McWilliams on her team. “(JSS) is a real good team. We got handcuffed by some foul trouble a little bit early that changed a little bit of what we could do. I’m super proud of their effort and we just needed a few things to go our way, but we’re going to have to play way more physical if we want to compete with them.”
Cobb led the Lady Bees with 12 points. Johnson added six points and 11 rebounds. Gracie Butler tallied nine points while Bella Mullins and Taylor Dolente each scored two.
The Lady Bees ended the season with a 32-4 record. They won the District 7/3A and Region 4/3A tournaments while advancing to the state tournament for the sixth time in eight seasons.
“It was an incredible season for them,” said McWilliams. “Obviously we all wanted to win (the state tournament), but to win the district tournament and the region tournament. To make the state tournament. That’s three out of four years for these kids. That doesn’t happen a lot. That speaks to what kind of kids they are.”
McWilliams credited her seniors, Johnson and Cobb with helping to continue the winning tradition in Baxter.
“You always hope your older kids can bring that leadership and understand what our program is about,” said McWilliams. “They just modeled that. We’ve had a lot of great leadership. What they’re going to leave with those kids is those kids will understand what our program stands for and the kind of culture that we have.”
Photos by Michael Lindsay: