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Thomas roars to life to rescue Lady Mountaineers

_MG_8325Heritage guard Leah Thomas works her way around the perimeter as William Blount’s Lindsey Roddy defends on Friday. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

It was like watching a great miler feel the race in the early going, move to the front when things begin to heat up, then kick.

Thomas comes to a jump stop at the basket.

Thomas comes to a jump stop at the basket.

Leah Thomas pumped in 19 second-half points – including nine in the last four minutes – and Heritage pulled clear of William Blount for a 50-42 win Friday night at Heritage in a Pink Out Game-fundraiser for the National Cancer Society.

Thomas finished with a game-high 22 points, including a 10-for-10 effort from the free-throw line, leading Lady Mountaineer assistant coach Tracy Hardiman to dub the junior shooting guard “” after the game.

The win moved the Lady Mountaineers (20-5, 6-5 District 4AAA) into fourth place in the league standings behind frontrunners Farragut (20-2, 10-1), Maryville (18-4, 10-1) and Bearden (16-4, 6-3) with the win.

“Leah stepped up and hit some big, big shots,” Heritage coach Rick Howard said.

Katie Wolfe finished with 11 for the Lady Mountaineers, Jordan Johnson seven and a huge 3 to close the third, helping to offset a night where Heritage leading scorer Kassi Knight was hampered by foul trouble and a lot of defensive attention from the Lady Governors.

William Blount got a strong night from sophomore guards Lindsey Roddy, 12 points, and Summer Morris, eight, including a pair of treys. The Lady Governors (14-10, 4-7) remain in a virtual tie with Hardin Valley (10-10, 4-6) for the No. 5 seeding in next month’s district tournament at Farragut.

Samantha Henry defends against the

Samantha Henry defends against Heritage’s Jordan Johnson.

“Leah Thomas is unbelievable,” William Blount coach Todd Wright said. “She’s a great player and she made some big shots in the fourth quarter. I don’t feel like we lost. I feel like Heritage won. They made the plays in the fourth quarter.”

Samantha Henry got William Blount off to rip roaring start with a drive to the bucket and a 3-pointer from straight away the first two minutes. Morris, more and more becoming a scorer to watch, connected from deep soon after, and the Lady Governors threatened an early break with a quick, 8-2 lead.

William Blount guards Amber Click, six points, Haley Talbott and Henry, five apiece, ensured the pace remained at a fast tempo.

A strong post game of Wolfe and Bethany Massey brought Heritage back to within 10-8 at the quarter and 19-18 at the half.

Wolfe collected seven rebounds to go with her 11 points, Knight six rebounds. Often matched against a smaller defender with the guard-heavy Lady Governors, Wolfe never let the deficit become something Heritage couldn’t make up.

“When they had a guard on me, she only came up to my ear,” Wolfe said, “so I thought I could take advantage of it.”

Heritage coach Rick Howard, center, reacts to a close call.

Heritage coach Rick Howard, center, reacts to a close call.

Thomas knocked down a 3 from the left corner for her first points of the game with 3:44 to play in the half. Little did we know …

“I said, ‘OK. I’ve got to pick it up,’” Thomas said.

Roddy, with a swooping drive down the lane, and Morris, with another 3, sparked the Lady Govnernors once again to begin the second half. Thomas answered the surge with nine third-quarter points, including a pair of crowd-stirring treys, and Heritage was even after three quarters, a Johnson 3-pointer in the final half minute knotting things at 35-all.

At the 5:48 mark of the fourth, Knight collected her fourth foul, Click following with two free throws to tie things at 37 apiece. Thomas quickly hit back with a 3-pointer in front of the Heritage bench.

A Heritage cheerleaders sports a T-shirt with the night's theme of "Fighters, Survivors and Taken" in the battle against cancer.

A Heritage cheerleader sports a T-shirt with the night’s theme of “Fighters, Survivors and Taken” in the battle against cancer.

“I just felt it,” she said. “Kassi got the screen; I was open, so I said, ‘I’m going to pop it.’”

Finishing what she’d started, Thomas went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line the next four minutes.

“I called that timeout (just prior to the Click free throws) and told (Thomas) it was time for her to take care of it and take us home,” Howard said.

Knight returned to drain both ends of a one-and-one to extend the Heritage lead to 50-39 with 55 seconds remaining.

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