“I don’t feel like they beat us. I feel like we beat ourselves,” said Huntingdon senior Jesica Keith following the Fillies’ season-ending loss to the Hampton Lady Bulldogs Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Class A Girls High School State Basketball Tournament at MTSU’s Murphy Center in Murfreesboro.
And to Fillies fans who made the trip to Murfreesboro, it certainly didn’t seem like the Huntingdon girls had brought their A-game as they trailed the Lady Bulldogs through most of the game and ultimately lost 37-29.
According to Huntingdon Head Coach Farris Lowery, his Fillies were having a hard time getting inside to the goal and getting the ball to go in the basket — particularly in the first half.
“We just didn’t shoot the ball well — something like 11 percent in the first half. You can’t come here and do that,” said Lowery. “That’s not typical of the way we play and shoot. We just never could get in our offensive rhythm in the first half. We came back some in the third quarter, but we fell a short at the end.”
Lowery also said that Hampton’s stout defense proved to be a significant obstacle.
“They played excellent defense,” said the coach. “But we missed some layups and easy shots too.”
“The hardest thing was getting the ball inside — that and the fact that we couldn’t make any threes,” said Huntingdon junior Taylor Smith. “That was the problem — most of it, anyway.”
Tall and bulky, Hampton’s Megan Garland, who led the Lady Bulldogs with 16 points, proved to be both a scoring danger under the goal and an effective guardian against layups and short-range shots.
Keith led the Fillies in scoring with 14 points, followed by Smith with nine, Marisa Belew with four, and Cheyenne Childress with two.
The Lady Bulldogs were up 4-0 in the first quarter before Keith put up two for Huntingdon from the free-throw line with just under two minutes left in the opening stanza.
Belew added two more from the foul line, but Hampton was still on top 9-4 going into the second period.
Smith brought the Fillies to within one (9-8) early in the second quarter with basket followed by a quick steal-and- score. But the Lady Bulldogs ruled the rest of the second to hold the scoreboard 14-8 at the half.
The Fillies slowly narrowed the gap in the third period on contributions by Taylor and Keith until Smith tied it up 25-25 with a basket at around the two-minute mark. But two unanswered baskets late in the quarter had Hampton back on top 29-25 at the end of the third.
With a five or six-point advantage, the Lady Bulldogs started slowing things down halfway into the fourth quarter, passing the ball back and forth and burning time off the clock. This turned out to be an effective strategy as the Fillies, with no other choice, started fouling and sending Lady Bulldogs to the free-throw line just for a chance to regain possession.
The Fillies, however, failed to make good on a couple of scoring opportunities in the final seconds.
Huntingdon’s Alli Jones fired off a parting shot of defiance across the court as the final buzzer sounded, but even if she had hit it, that would not have been enough to overcome Hampton’s eight-point advantage.
According to Keith, the pressure of playing at the state tournament level — the first time for the Fillies in over a decade — may have served as a mental distraction to the team.
“All year we’ve been taught to just flush it from our minds, get out there, and do what we have to do to win,” said Keith. “In this case we needed to take more chances, and we just didn’t do that.”
Still, it has been an impressive season for the Fillies, who finished the regular season 20-3, claimed the District 13A championship, placed as runners-up in the Region 7A Tournament, and then gained a state tournament berth with a 71-69 sectionals win over Trinity Christian Academy.
Hampton ended up getting knocked out by Clarkrange 37-27 during semifinals on Friday.
Fellow District 13A rivals, the Dresden Lady Lions, fell to Summertown 52-64 immediately after Huntingdon’s loss on Thursday.
The Class A State Championship trophy ultimately went to the girls from South Greene High School in Greeneville, who topped Clarkrange 66-57 in Saturday’s championship round after defeating Pickett County in the quarterfinals and Summertown in the semifinals.