Blount Press Row

Prospect of a Bright Future

Lady Tigers claim title in school’s first year

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Kailey Keeble hit the game’s biggest shot with less than a minute having been played.

The Prospect Elementary guard knifed to the basket off the fastbreak to give the first-year Lady Tigers a 4-0 lead in the National Conference championship game of the Blount County Elementary Basketball Tournament.

Keeble’s basket meant Maryville Christian School and star guard Rachel Reid could no longer tie or take the lead on just one shot. Not since Marcus Haynes and the old-school Harlem Globetrotters had anyone seen what would happen next, Prospect storming the court four quarters later to celebrate a championship with a 21-9 win in its first year as a school.

Why Keeble’s basket meant so much would soon become apparent to an increasingly tense crowd at Heritage Middle School. In forwards Kenzie Lane and Chailey Shofner, the Lady Tigers had a noticeable size advantage around the basket. The Lady Eagles weren’t going to be able to rebound with them.

Keeble and backcourt mate Kayla Ramines were really good shooters, so Reid, a fifth-grade sensation whose AAU team won a national championship this summer, wasn’t going to be able to outscore Prospect by herself.

Twice in the first three minutes Reid penetrated the Lady Tiger zone and laid the ball off to a teammate. The trap was there instantly, forcing a turnover. Maryville Christian coach Scott Kidd made a calculated move at that point that sealed the game’s fate.

“We’d have been down 20-0 at halftime” trying to run with the Lady Tigers, Kidd said, “so we decided to shorten the game. We hoped to be down 6-0 (at the half), but we just couldn’t do it today.”

In the early days, the famed Globetrotters would dress only five players, with coach/owner Abe Saperstein, a uniform under his coat, the only possible sub. Once, with two players having fouled out and the Globetrotters ahead by one, Haynes dribbled away the entire fourth quarter with no let up to clinch victory.

The problem with that approach Friday night is Prospect (10-3) never let Maryville Christian (9-3) anywhere near having the lead. Ramines upped the Prospect lead to 6-0 on a baseline jumper with 4:28 to play in the first quarter.

“We always feel confident when we score fast,” she said. In a one-player stall, Reid then reduced the remainder of the quarter to a Lady Eagle miss, a Prospect turnover on a tie-up and a Maryville Christian illegal screen. As the crowd groaned, the Lady Tigers kept their cool.

“We were ahead in the game,” Lane said. “And if they didn’t score,” said Keeble, quickly finishing the thought, “we were going to win the game.”

Shofter raised the Lady Tiger lead to 8-0 with 5:45 to play in the half. Reid then held the ball the last five minutes, with Maryville Christian attempting only its second shot of the half just before the buzzer.

“You kind of had to catch your breath sometimes,” Reid said. The strategy was somewhat effective as Maryville Christian had held the ball for 10 of the game’s first 12 minutes. Prospect coach Stanley Fleming didn’t bite, though, keeping the Lady Tigers just below the 3-point line as Reid methodically walked the ball from one side of the defense to the other. After three quarters it was 15-0, at which point Fleming emptied his bench.

“If we would have been down by one I wouldn’t have come out of that zone,” Fleming said. “I thought our best defense was to keep (Reid) on the edge and double her when she comes inside.” As the deficit climbed, the Lady Eagles didn’t lose hope “I knew we were behind, but I kind of had a little faith,” guard Elise Edinger said.

After three quarters, however, the Prospect’s lead was just too big. Ramines put the game well beyond Maryville Christian’s reach with a pair of third-quarter baskets to finish with a team-high seven points. Keeble also doubled up in the third to finish with six. Shofner and Lanes would finish with four points each at the rim.

“At halftime, I told (the Lady Tigers), ‘That team’s got to score nine points to beat you,'” Fleming said. “So we decided to stay back and make (the Lady Eagles) decide where they were going to get points.”

Battling sure fatigue, Reid got it going in the fourth quarter to lead all scorers with nine, including a 3-pointer.

“I’m so proud of our girls,” Kidd said. “Rachel Reid is the best player in the county, and the rest of the girls did their job.”

Third-place game:
Middlesettlements 18, Townsend 5

Madison Henry and Sydney Ritter got the Lady Settlers started with four points each in the first quarter, and Middlesettlements never looked backed in rolling to victory in the consoation game. Henry maintained the pace in the second quarter to lead all scorers with eight points by game’s end, with Lady Settler teammate Jazzlyn Atkins just back with six points. Sarah Moler capped the Middlesettlements scoring with two. Sarah Tozzi popped a trey to lead Townsend with three points, with Raven Myers’ basket accounting for the total.

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