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Knight To Remember

Heritage falls but sophomore delivers take-notice performance

Kassi Knight steps through to the basket against Bearden on Monday. Photos by Hobe Brunson

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Farragut – If not for that third foul …

If not for Erin Walsh …

Bearden's Erin Walsh lays in two of her game-high 24 points.

For two minutes midway through the third quarter Monday, Kassi Knight played basketball as few will.

On back-to-back-to-back baskets, the Heritage High School sophomore hit a soft runner down the lane, connected on a toes-on-the-line jump shot from the head of the circle and swished a 15-footer from the baseline.

Knight is a 5-foot-11 post.

Walsh is about the same height but plays guard, and that made all the difference as Bearden took the Region 2AAA semifinal, 44-41, at Farragut High School.

The Lady Bulldogs advanced to Wednesday night’s championship game and its automatic sectional berth against the host Lady Admirals. Heritage ends the season at 20-13.

The silky, playmaking Walsh led all scorers with 24 points, 11 of them coming in a fourth quarter that saw Bearden make up a 10-point deficit. Knight wasn’t far back with 20 for Heritage, a red-hot shooting night curtailed by an assessed third foul with three minutes to play in the third.

Leah Thomas directs traffic on Monday.

Olivia Pfeifer joined Walsh in double figures for Bearden with 11, hitting on a pair of 3-pointers. Jordan Johnson and Leah Thomas had six and five points, respectively, for the Lady Mountaineers.

The tough loss for Heritage was eased by the knowledge there’s only one senior on this year’s roster, post player Kathryn Pryor, who did not dress due to illness. The absence of her leadership was noticeable during Bearden’s fourth-quarter charge, Lady Mountaineer coach Rick Howard said.

“We just didn’t attack the pressure like we’re supposed to and we didn’t score,” he said. “We made some bad choices, but they’re young and will learn from their mistakes and become a better team from this run. You love to coach kids like this.”

Heritage stormed to a 9-0 advantage to open the game, the Lady Mountaineers getting defense and scoring all ’round from its first five of Knight, Johnson, Thomas, Bethany Massey and Katie Wolfe.

Wolfe’s defensive presence played a pivotal role in Heritage opening a 17-5 lead after a quarter. A pair of 3s from Pfeifer kept the Lady Bulldogs in it, with Walsh almost personally trimming the deficit to 20-16 Lady Mountaineers at the half.

Knight’s third-quarter surge had Heritage looking to blow it open before a third foul at the 3:13 mark sent her to the bench for the rest of the period. Bearden coach Justin Underwood took full advantage, putting the Lady Bulldogs in a full-court trapping defense that had a telling effect on the Lady Mountaineers guards the rest of the way.

Jordan Johnson lets fly with a 3.

“It was very risky just because we don’t have a deep bench,” Underwood said. “I felt we needed to do something so they (the Lady Bulldogs) weren’t thinking too much and just reacting.”

Walsh was given free reign by Underwood to trap at her discretion.

“We just tried to double team the ball and hope they couldn’t handle the pressure,” Walsh said.

The edge Knight provided held for a while, Heritage leading 32-22 after three, but Bearden was on the march. The Lady Bulldogs led for the first time, 39-38, on a Pfeifer fast-break basket with two minutes left. Bearden made the run with Walsh carrying four fouls the last five minutes.

Johnson pulled Heritage within 42-41 with a 3 with seven seconds left. Walsh hit two free throws out of a timeout to extend the margin to three, with Bearden’s Chanler Geer blocking a last-gasp, Lady Mountaineer 3-point attempt at the horn.





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