Coming into the District 5-A high school girls' basketball game Thursday at Arts & Sciences, Silverdale Baptist Academy's girls knew they were two victories over the arch nemesis away from earning the No. 1 seeding in the district tournament.
One down; one to go.
The Lady Seahawks never trailed but didn't pull away until the second half when they built a 17-point lead on the way to defeating the Lady Patriots 62-53, setting the stage for a rematch tonight at Silverdale on senior night.
Silverdale (14-8, 5-0) and CSAS (9-13, 5-2) have shared the regular-season championship each of the last two years with the Lady Patriots ending up top-seeded in the tournament both times. If the Lady Seahawks win tonight -- or one of their games Monday or Tuesday against Copper Basin -- they would capture the first outright district regular-season title in the program's seven-year history.
"Not just for me, but me and my teammates set a goal at the first of the year to not only come in first in the district but to win the tournament," said Eastern Kentucky-bound point guard Mariah Massengill, who paced Silverdale with 26 points Thursday. "We have a lot of big expectations. We want to keep putting on the gas. We've come in second way too many years. This is our year."
Mariah's father, David, is Silverdale's head coach.
"I told the girls in the locker room they've got to forget about tonight," Coach Massengill said. "We've got to go out at home and play them again. No two days are the same. We've got to come out with the same intensity and get off to a quick start. I doubt CSAS is going to lay down. It's all about how bad you want it and how hard you work."
Sparking the Lady Seahawks' quick start Thursday was an 8-0 run, breaking a tie at 4. They led by eight on five other occasions in the first half -- the last at 32-24.
The Lady Patriots battled back to within a point on a basket by Resnick Billen with 5:48 to go in the third quarter and could've tied the score had she finished the three-point play. But Silverdale responded by scoring nine consecutive points, prompting a CSAS timeout, and led by at least eight the rest of the way.
"When we get out to a quick start, it seems like the girls gain some confidence from that," Coach Massengill said. "When Mariah sees man-to-man defense against her, she lights up. It's hard to guard her. I made a defensive change later on, back to the 2-3 [zone]. I wasn't liking our look in the 3-2. Their bigs got shot after shot two or three times in a row there.
"We rebounded well and got some good outlet passes and got going again. Freshman Megan Lewis came in and dropped two 3s in pretty quick that helped us right there. When we have the lead going to the fourth quarter, I think my girls really, really believe they're going to win. That's when our ball-handling takes over."
Freshman Emily Skelton, starting for the third consecutive game, had the Lady Seahawks' first four points and finished with 13. Three of Sloane Woodard's five field goals came in the third-quarter run after the Lady Patriots got within one.
Freshman Keturah Billen, in her second year on varsity, scored a career-high 25 points for CSAS.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.