By: Jim Steele
McKENZIE, Tenn. - For a while, things were tenuous for the McKenzie Middle School Lady Rebel basketball team in its county championship bout with West Carroll.
The Lady Rebels watched a 10-point halftime lead disappear, as well as much of their offense, but held on to ease past West Carroll 30-28 and win its first Carroll County girls' basketball title since 2009.
McKenzie had things rolling in the first half, but between the 2:26 mark of the third quarter and the 2:33 mark of the fourth, the Lady Rebels suffered through an 0-for-16 drought from the floor. Kelsey Spivey scored off a rebound with 2:33 to play to put the Lady Rebels in front for good and Anna Comer added insurance with her bucket 55 seconds later.
It was a tough second half to watch for Lady Rebel coach Jennifer Nelson, who has led the Lady Rebs to their second county crown in three years.
"They switched defenses and that affected us," said Nelson. "But Spivey and Comer came up with big shots at the end."
Not to be overshadowed was the first-half effort of McKenzie's Emma McDaniel, who led the Lady Rebels with 11 points, all in the first half. But West Carroll denied the post for much of the second half and that was the source of McKenzie's scoring dearth between the third and fourth quarters.
"Emma had a great game for us and did a good job," said Nelson. "She hurt her leg in the end, but stayed in there."
Part of the game plan for the Lady Rebels was to face guard West Carroll's Diedra Clark and Alexis Patterson. Patterson was still a load, scoring 19 points, Clark eight, but Nelson said her plan was to roll the dice.
"If we were going to lose, we wanted to see if their other players could beat us," she said. In the end, McKenzie's defense held the Lady War Eagles to 28 points total points.
After a back-and-forth battle where McKenzie led 10-8 after one, the Lady Rebels opened the second with a 10-4 run. Comer, Spivey and McDaniel were instrumental in the run. But as the second half unfolded, West Carroll began to cut into McKenzie's lead. Patterson and Clark seemed to take turns as the Lady Rebs watched the pad melt. At the buzzer, West Carroll trailed 26-24.
Patterson tied the game with her bucket at the 4:47 mark of the fourth, but McKenzie marked with buckets from Spivey and Comer to put enough distance between the Lady Rebels and West Carroll.
Comer had 10 points, Infinity McClerkin had four, Spivey three and Carissa Britt two to lead the Lady Rebels.
"The girls played hard and it was the most focused they've been all year," Nelson said. "They were determined and got after it; I was proud of their effort."
MCDaniel, McClerkin and Comer were named to the all-county team for McKenzie. Clark and Patterson earned all-county honors for West Carroll.