Van Buren County’s Season Ends In Semifinal Loss Against Defending Champs

By Noah McKay

MURFREESBORO – The Van Buren County Eaglettes season came to an end in an 84-59 loss against McKenzie in the semifinal round of the 2023 Class A state tournament on Friday at the Murphy Center.

VBCHS was unable to overcome the defending champion McKenzie high-pressure defense as one of the most historic seasons in school history ended in the final four.

“Their pressure’s really good,” said VBCHS head coach Tyler Sapp. “We turned it over 25 times. They got 32 points off turnovers, that’s huge. We knew that was going to be a thing going in. That’s how it goes.”

The McKenzie defense forced five turnovers in the opening 90 seconds of the contest as they raced out to a 10-0 lead. The Eaglettes cut the deficit to 17-9 on two free throws by Layla Bouldin, but the Lady Rebels stretched the lead to 15 on two straight threes. The Eaglettes trailed 30-17 after one.

“It’s very difficult to overcome that kind of a start,” said Sapp.

The teams traded buckets early in the second quarter, but a 6-0 MHS run stretched their lead to 21 before a three by Emily Allen made it 45-27 at halftime.

The Lady Rebels continued their strong play in the second half, rolling to the victory.

“They shot the ball well,” said Sapp. “They didn’t Wednesday against Peabody. We were kind of hoping for that. They had 26 points in the paint too, so they were even getting past our first level and scoring on our second level too.”

Bouldin led the Eaglettes with 19 points and eight rebounds. Cara Mills tallied a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

It was the final game for VBCHS seniors Kaytlin Crain, Lilah Johnson, Greta Rigsby who played through a hip injury in the game, Emily Allen and Julia Bell.

Sapp became emotional when asked about the impact of his seniors, which reflected their importance to the program both on and off the court.

Both Bouldin and Mills will return next season, with Bouldin entering her senior season.

“Them two are going to be the centerpieces next year, for sure,” said Sapp.

“That’s the goal every year, to be in the state tournament,” said Bouldin. “It just makes your team want to keep coming back and keep making history.”

The Eaglettes ended the season with a 24-10 overall record. They were the District 6/A and Region 3/A champions. It marked their second straight trip to the state tournament, and third time in school history. They won their second state tournament game in school history with their victory over North Greene on Wednesday.

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