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Championship Mettle

Porter holds off furious Montvale rally for undefeated three-peat

Pantherette guard Eden Davis defends on the perimeter against the Lady Knights Hallie Waters in Tuesday night’s championship game. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Montvale fifth-grader Bekah Gardner was half kid, half amazing in the fourth quarter Tuesday night.

Montvale's Bekah Gardner rallied the Knights with an unreal fourth quarter.

Montvale’s Bekah Gardner rallied the Knights with an unreal fourth quarter.

Porter’s lead was just big enough, but it was some finish that saw the Pantherettes cap an undefeated three-peat for the school with a 23-22 win in the National Conference championship game of the Blount County Elementary Basketball Tournament at Heritage Middle School.

The championship was Porter’s third consecutive, each coming in unbeaten seasons. A talented trio of Karley Jo LaSorsa, Laine McAmis and Eden Davis paced the 2014 Pantherettes (12-0) to the title, with LaSorsa, a post player who runs like a guard and plays stellar defense, leading the way with 12 points.

Davis, a slick, playmaking guard, added five, with McAmis, the must-have forward that ties it all together, adding four. Noami Atchley added two.

“It feels really good,” Davis said. “It’s our teamwork.”

“Teamwork was the biggest reason we won,” McAmis said.

Teammates since the third grade, Davis, McAmis and LaSorsa are sure to be heard from in years to come.

Porter's ? Lasorda proved the difference and her scoring.

Porter’s Karley Jo LaSorsa proved the difference maker.

“We work so well together,” LaSorsa said. “We’ve been friends since we were little kids.”

LaSorsa, Davis and McAmis were clicking right from the start, and Porter powered clear to leads of 12-2 after a quarter, 16-3 at the half and 21-5 to start the fourth. The Knights likely wouldn’t have been that close had Amanda Lane not displayed some true sportsmanship.

The Porter coach began lifting her starters as early as the second quarter. By the third, McAmis, Davis and LaSorsa were no longer on the floor together, each taking a shift in solo fashion with the reserves.

“My whole team got to play, and that’s what we wanted to do,” Lane said. “I think we pulled them out too soon.”

A kid with a nice crossover is a dangerous thing, and, when the fourth quarter started, Gardner got red hot. You’re not going to believe how hot.

The Montvale ace began the frame with three points. By the buzzer, she’d poured in 17 more to finish with a game-high 20, setting the stage for a heart-stopping finale.

Gardner dropped 25 in a Saturday night semifinal.

All of a sudden the Knights, who’d gotten a bucket from Natalie Simmerly for its only points of the first quarter, were a different team. Gardner was hitting off the drive, from the corner, off the break.

“She was on fire,” Lane said.

The Pantherettes raise the championship hardware.

The Pantherettes raise the championship hardware.

Lane reacted quickly to the momentum shift and sent LaSorsa and McAmis back to the scorer’s table, but the Pantherettes just couldn’t get a dead ball to make the substitutions. With 32 seconds left, Lane signaled for time. The lead was four.

Montvale’s fourth-quarter outburst wasn’t as much out the norm as you might think, Knights coach Misty Heath said.

“They’ve played that well all year,” she said. “We were just cold those first two quarters.”

The Knights got the ball back for one last push with 16 seconds remaining, and Gardner raced to the other end on the break. Porter, as champions are prone to do, got back to bother the shot just enough for Gardner’s layup attempt roll off the rim. Montvale immediately fouled, but, with only 10 seconds left, surely that was it.

A miss, and Montvale got the ball quickly to Gardner, who bolted into frontcourt to bury a 3 from the right side just before the horn sounded.

Asked to explain her fourth-quarter eruption, Gardner answered like a polished pro.

“Coach Misty gives great pep talks,” she said.


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