Cross Plains, Tenn. — Give credit where credit is due, the Houston County Fighting Irish (27-4, 14-0) came out to earn their namesake in the Region 5A semifinal game against Moore County Monday night at East Robertson High School. Led by freshman point guard Abbey Dew, the gals from Erin, Tenn. gave Moore County all they wanted for the first half.
Coming out of the gate with lots of energy and enthusiasm, Houston County got out to an early 2-8 lead in the first four minutes. They hit nearly everything they shot and managed two quick fouls on Raiderette post player Sarah Raby.
But that level of intensity can’t be maintained forever. Soon the Fighting Irish looked winded. Sensing the shift in momentum, the Raiderettes stepped up to play their game. Kelsey Camp and Savanah Williams combined for back-to-back points to pull the Raiderettes within one (7-8) at the two minute mark. On the very next play, Miss Basketball finalist and MCHS’s lone senior Rachel Garland took over. She snagged a steal and drove past the other players to connect on a left side layup. Her two points gave Moore County the lead with a little less than a minute left in the first period.
Moore County kept the lead until around the four minute mark when Houston County connected on back to back points to earn the lead. As the final seconds ticked off of the first half, Houston County pulled ahead by a bucket. They lead 20-19 at going into the locker room.
After the break, Houston County drew first blood increasing their lead to 22-19 before Eric Limbaugh stepped into the lane to drive for two points. Seconds later, Garland was fouled. Her free throw tied it at 22 all with a little over six minutes remaining in the third.
The Raiderettes held Houston County scoreless for the next three minutes while stringing together four unanswered points with buckets by Limbaugh and Erin Thomas. Houston County scored a driving layup before the “She Hulks” from Moore County pieced together a 5-0 run with points by Raby, Garland and Thomas.
As if putting a cherry on top of there impressive third period play, Kelsey Camp snagged a pass with 25 seconds remaining and basically dribbled around and through the Houston County defender with an impressive crossover and behind-the-back move.
“That was basically a dribbling clinic,” said MCHS Raiderette broadcaster Justin Grogan, as Kelsey drove for the final bucket of the third eight minutes. The Raiderettes led 33-25.
Though Raiderette Head Coach Bruce Slatten pulled her early in the first half due to foul trouble, junior Sarah Raby dominated for a full minute of regulation play when she returned in the fourth period. She pounded the Fighting Irish down low — scoring four back-to-back layups that pulled MCHS ahead by 10. With three minutes left in game, Moore County found a little breathing room.
They continued to mount 12 more points while holding Houston County to just four. Two Houston County starting seniors Leeann Baggett and Nikki Nchols fouled out in the final minute of regulation play.
Though the 18 point victory was impressive against very talented Houston County team, it was far from a complete game for the Raiderettes. The gals in Columbia blue did not connect on a single 3-point shot and missed 16 from the charity stripe.
Senior Rachel Garland led with 14 points. Raby (who sat out most of the first and all of the second period) scored 10 points. Kelsey Camp also scored 10. Freshman Savannah Williams came off the bench to swish 9 points. Erica Limbaugh contributed seven and Erin Thomas added five more.
The Raiderettes (32-3, 15-0) will now face off with Middle Tennessee Christian School (MTCS) for the fourth time this season for the right to wear the Region 5A crown. Moore County beat MTCS (19-11, 7-7) twice in the regular season: 55-40 on Dec. 9 in Murfreesboro, then again on Jan. 20 in Lynchburg by a margin of 49-38.
Their most recent match up was on Feb. 16 at MTCS where the two battled it out for the District 9A crown. Moore County walked away with 60-34 win but the Cougars have been playing well in the Region 5A action. They beat Nashville Christain by a bucket (45-44) in the first round and upset District 10A Champions the McEwen Warriors 54-49 on Monday night just prior to tip off of the Moore County, Houston County game.
The Region 5A Championship game takes place Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
It will be broadcast on www.atwsportscast.com and 93.9 FM.