By Ed Greif
The CCHS Lady Jets opened and closed the Jon Loden Christmas Classic with fast starts and held off the Upperman Lady Bees in the middle of the game to post an 86-55 victory for the championship and to extend their winning streak to 15 games.
"We worked hard really hard this summer. It's pretty much the same team we had as last year. We've just put in a lot of hours as a team," said Coach Radhika Miller in post-game interviews. "Our defensive pressure pretty much dominated the game. Upperman is always a very tough competitive team."
"These girls, every win they get, they deserve it because they've worked hard to get where they are."
"We played together as a team. It was a great game," said senior player Rebekah Teeple.
After Teeple converted one of two free throws for a 1-0 lead, back-to-back treys by Sarah Eldridge and Klaudia Hull put the Lady Jets in a 6-1 hole. With the several hundred fans in attendance at Midway High School and Miller's constant coaching, the Lady Jets responded with a 22-3 run for a 23-9 lead by quarter's end.
Alli Hyder paced the Lady Jets with eight points. Miller and assistant Leslie Eldridge used their deep bench to their advantage in the first quarter, Rebekah Teeple (five points), Gina Dick (four points), Destiny Carlton (two points) and Courtney Smith (two points).
CCHS was nine of 15 from the field with three turnovers, while holding the Lady Bees to two of five with 11 turnovers, incluiding two steals by Hyder and one each by Teeple and Makenzie iles.
The Lady Bees didn't go away. Klaudia Hull's three-point play and a layup by Abby Greenwood triggered a 15-6 run to slice the Lady Jets' lead to 29-24 with under 3:30 left in the half. Iles converted two free throws with 3:23 left to send the Lady Jets on a 10-7 run to gain a 39-31 lead at the break.
CCHS was 11 of 28 from the field with eight turnovers, while holding Upperman to nine of 17 from the floor with 17 turnovers. Theft leaders in the first half were Hyder (five)l, Teeple (three), Iles (two), Carlton (two) and one each by Kelsie Eldridge, Klaire Varney and Gina Dick, showing the depth of the bench, as nine of 14 players saw action in the first 16 minutes.
There were peaks and valleys in the third quarter, beginning with a trey by Sarah Eldridge and a lay-up by Klaudia Hull was a downer to slice the deficit to 39-36. A bucket by Victoria Lee started a 7-0 run to swell the lead back to 46-38.
A 6-0 spurt by the Lady Bees sliced the lead to 46-42 with 4:27 left in the third quarter, but a layup by Lee started a 9-4 run to give CCHS a 55-46 advantage.
Miller, who coaches in a Pat Summitt mood, extolled her team into a fourth-quarter explosion which could have been heard back on the Plateau.
A three-play by Smith, who also had a couple of blocked shots, started a 31-9 burst which sent the Lady Jets on their 15th straight win. Carlton was the trigger-woman in the quarter, scoring 10 points for the Lady Jets, who were 12 of 18 from the field, while holding the Lady Bees to two of nine from the field with six turnovers.
Statistical leaders were Iles (11 points, two rebounds, two assists, three steals), Dick (nine points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal), Hyder (22 points, one rebound, two assists, five steals), Carlton (14 points, three boards, three assists, five steals), Lee (six points, six rebounds, two steals), Skylar VanWinkle (three points), Teeple (nine points, eight rebounds, two assists, three steals), Varney (three rebounds, one assist, one steal), Kelsie Eldridge (two points, two rebounds, one steal) and Smith (seven points, five rebounds, one steal). Also seeing action were Lindsey Norrod, Madison Mclaughlin, Sydney Clark and Bailey Davis.
Schedule: CCHS opens the new year tonight at 5 against the Chattanooa Patriots, a homeschool team from Southeast Tennessee, before hitting the road next week at Clarkrange (Jan. 7), Monterey (Jan. 9) and Rhea County (Jan. 10) for a District 6AAA game.