25 Mar JCHS edges West for D2-AAA girls title
Jefferson County players celebrate after winning the District 2-AAA title with a 56-52 triumph over Morristown West in Saturday’s championship in Dandridge.
The Lady Patriots avoided a fourth loss this season to Morristown West Saturday night in the District 2-AAA Tournament championship game, riding a masterful performance from Ryleigh Fritz to a 56-52 victory over the Lady Trojans to claim the title and a No. 1 seed in the Region 1-AAA Tournament.
With the win, Jefferson County now stands at 20-10 on the year and will host District 1-AAA fourth place finisher Cherokee (12-19) next Friday in the Region 1-AAA Tournament opening round. The semifinals and championship game of the region will be held at Jefferson County High School the following Monday and Wednesday.
“I was thrilled with our defense,” JCHS coach Rick Sinard said. “I’m proud of our team. We played great as a unit, and you have to do that against a team like Morristown West. We knew it would be a battle. Ryleigh played so well. She was a true leader tonight. She stepped up, and the rest of the team responded. I’m just so proud of this team and what they accomplished.”
The loss leaves West at 22-3 on the season, and they will host District 1-AAA third place finisher Science Hill (25-5) next Friday as well in the region tournament.
“Fritz was the difference tonight,” West coach Johnny Galyon said. “She played really well, and we made a few too many mistakes to get the win. Give Jefferson County all the credit. They are really well coached, and Coach Sinard had his team ready to play. We just came up a little short, but we will rebound and get back to work.”
West got off to a great start, with Blayre Shultz hitting the opening shot of the game to give the Lady Trojans an early lead. They hit their first seven shots from the field and led by as many as 11 in the first period, and they took a 22-14 lead into the second frame.
JCHS began to chip away in the second, with Cayla Smith banging home a triple and Fritz hitting two big shots in the final two minutes to trim the deficit to 30-25 at halftime.
The Lady Patriots got six free throws from Fritz in the first four minutes of the third to help knot the game at 36, and she added two more later to give JCHS its first lead. Caroline Harville hit two consecutive jumpers in the lane to put West back on top, but Madee Denton answered back for the home team and Fritz laid one in before the horn to give the Lady Pats a 42-41 lead going to the fourth.
The teams swapped the lead three times in the fourth, with the last being on a triple by Denton to put JCHS on top, 47-45. Fritz added to the lead before Denton hit two free tosses to give the Lady Patriots their largest lead at 51-45. Harville scored three times in the paint to cut the lead to 53-51, but the Lady Pats hit their free throws to seal the win.
Fritz led all scorers with 22 points, while Denton and Smith both added 11 and Makayla Alvey had 10 in the win.
With the win, East improved to 20-10 on the year and will take on District 1-AAA runner-up Dobyns-Bennett (23-9) in the Region 1-AAA Tournament on Friday night in Kingsport. It was the eighth straight win against Sevier County and also gave the Lady ‘Canes back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in 20 years. The Lady ‘Canes have 41 wins in the last two seasons, the most in a two-year stretch since 1980-81.
The loss dropped the Smoky Bearettes to 14-15 on the year, and they have a date with District 1-AAA champion and sixth-ranked Daniel Boone (26-4) in the Region 1-AAA Tournament on Friday night in Gray.
Aebri Graham (Seymour), Mallory Clevenger (Cocke County), Savannah Fox (Sevier County), Kiki Moore (Morristown East), Mattie Bryant (Morristown East), Blayre Shultz (Morristown West), Caroline Harville (Morristown West), Erin Foster (Morristown West), Makayla Alvey (Jefferson County), Cayla Smith (Jefferson County) and MVP Ryleigh Fritz (Jefferson County).