Comebacks were the order of the day in the Region 3-A girls' high school basketball semifinals Monday at Arts & Sciences. One was early; one was late. One worked; one didn't.
The end result was Arts & Sciences slipping past Whitwell 37-31 and then Van Buren County edging Silverdale Baptist Academy 55-53 in overtime.
Boys' semifinals are today with Arts & Sciences taking on Sale Creek at 6 p.m. and Copper Basin playing Boyd-Buchanan at 7:30.
Van Buren (23-8) will face CSAS (17-13) in the girls' final Wednesday night at 6. The boys' championship game will follow.
CSAS was down 12-3 after one quarter. But coach Zach Dragoo said that was nothing new for his crew.
"At the end of the first quarter I told the girls, 'We've been down like this before,'" Dragoo said. "They said, 'Yes, we have. And next you're going to tell us, just keep playing.' And I said, 'That's exactly right. Just keep playing.'"
The Lady Patriots continued to struggle a bit offensively in the next quarter but held Whitwell (16-16) scoreless the entire period and went to halftime leading 13-12.
"Even though we might get off to a slow start, we seem to just wear on people," Dragoo said. "Eventually we speed the game up a little bit. Then our opponent will have an unforced shot come up short, or one come up long, or we get them to turn the ball over, and all those things can lead to some easy baskets. It's just our M.O.
"I really preach to them, 'Do not let your offense affect your defense and your ability to pressure somebody.' The second quarter I don't think they scored. As bad as we played, we were still up one at the half."
CSAS led by as much as 28-16 late in the third quarter. The Lady Tigers battled back and were within three points when Tankia Gholston made the second of two free throws with 1:26 play, but the Lady Patriots put it away with a free throw by Brooke Mitchell and a layup by Sheridan Randolph within the final minute.
Mitchell and Sarah McElvain scored 10 points apiece for CSAS, and Gholston's 12 points led Whitwell.
The second game was classic tournament basketball featuring the Districts 5 and 6 regular-season champions, each led by the district players of the year -- and neither disappointed.
Silverdale tried a variety of defensive approaches, including a box-and-one, on Van Buren's Lakelyn Bouldin, and still she totaled 28 points. Many were instrumental in the Eaglettes leading practically the entire game -- until player-of-the-year counterpart Sloane Woodard took over in the fourth quarter.
With the Lady Seahawks trailing 38-27, Woodard made back-to-back 3s -- one from each corner -- which quickly prompted a Van Buren timeout.
"The senior took over," SBA coach Tim Thompson said of Woodard. "She started saying in the huddle, 'We're not out of this.' Then she went out and knocked about three shots down and turned it around. The other girls started feeding off that."
Silverdale took its first lead on a layup by Megan Lewis with 2:11 to play. But the Eaglettes got a jumper by Shelene Hitchcock from the right elbow with 25 seconds to go and got it into overtime.
"We just didn't connect on our shots," Van Buren coach Cheryl Cole said of her team's fourth-quarter collapse. "We had plenty of opportunities."
After Hitchcock made the second of two free throws with 7.5 seconds showing, the Lady Seahawks called a timeout to set up a final play. They went to Woodard for a 3 from left of the key, but coach's daughter Carly Cole came from beside her and blocked it.
"We had to have pressure on the ball, but we didn't want to foul and put them on the line," Coach Cole said. They're a good free-throw-shooting team. What she did was very risky. I was thinking, 'Oh my Lord.'"
Woodard paced Silverdale (26-4) with 16 points. Lewis scored 15 and Emily Skelton had 10.
"When we got back to the locker room, one of our sophomores said, 'That's the best game we played all year,'" Thompson said. "I agreed with her. They worked hard, and they didn't quit."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
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.