East Hamilton's girls didn't win Thursday's District 6-AA high school basketball game at Howard in the first quarter. Or maybe they did.
Howard outscored the Lady Hurricanes over the final three quarters, but because they played the first quarter -- which overwhelmingly went the way of the Lady Hurricanes -- East Hamilton defeated the Lady Hustlin' Tigers 57-44.
With the victory, East Hamilton (14-8, 8-0) moves into sole possession of first place in the district standings. The teams play again next Thursday at East Hamilton.
"We were both undefeated in the district coming in," host coach Derek Morris said. "The game next week will be a battle again. Winning this one gives us edge in case we have 'one of those games' on Thursday."
It was looking like "one of those games" for Howard (9-4, 9-1) in the early going. After the Lady Tigers' Tyreshia Rollins made a layup off the opening tip, the Lady Hurricanes reeled off nine consecutive points on the way to a 20-6 lead at the end of one quarter.
"We shot the ball well as a team," Morris said. "On Tuesday we made eight 3s and I think that just kind of carried over. From what we knew, if they were going to sit in a 3-2 zone we were going to have to hit some outside jumpers. We did that, and we were able to get into our press early, get a few steals and some easy baskets in transition. I think that set the tone."
Howard didn't take much off the lead in the second quarter, but its 17-point third quarter was more than it scored in the first two combined. That enabled the Lady Tigers to be within 40-33 heading to the fourth, where they got it within six when NuQuella Robinson made a free throw with 4:59 to play.
"We didn't find our chemistry early enough," Howard coach Ashley Wilbur said. "We made a good run at them, but then we slumped back down. We tightened up our defense. We had some open slots in there we had to get closed up. We started taking it to the basket, too. That was where we got most of our offense instead of jump shots."
Not surprisingly, Morris turned to senior point guard Jessica Caudle in the late stages. She went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 4:49.
Kaylee Moon contributed two free throws with 2:58 remaining. Those came a little more than a minute after Lexi Zackery, who played point when Caudle wasn't in the game, connected on a 3-point shot from left of the key for the last of her 13 points.
"With the game on the line, obviously we want the ball in Jessica's hands," Morris said of Caudle, who led the Lady 'Canes with 19 points. "I thought Lexi did a good job when Jessica got in foul trouble. It's nice not just having one of the best point guards in the district, I think we have two."
Deronesha Smartt's 14 points led Howard. Rollins and Robinson totaled 10 points apiece.
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.