Inclement weather delayed the Scotland County Lady Tigers one more day, but what’s another 24 hours in a more than quarter century wait? SCR-I capped off Senior Night and Courtwarming on Saturday, instead of Friday, downing Knox County 48-33 to secure the first girls Tri-Rivers Conference basketball championship in school history.
To secure the title, the #7 state ranked Lady Tigers had to top a talented Knox County squad for the third time this season.
“That was something a lot of people were talking about,” said Coach Shaina Arnold about the difficulty of beating a team three times in one season. “Honestly we didn’t give it much thought though. The girls stayed focused on the task at hand and took care of business.”
The Lady Tigers sent the capacity crowd into a frenzy in the opening minutes. Calesse Bair scored on a back-door play before Randi Slaughter sank a three-pointer. A jumper by Chelsea Wood followed by another bucket by Slaughter pushed the home team’s lead to 9-3.
But Knox County answered with a buzzer-beater by Shaina Elder trimming the lead to 11-8 at the end of the first period.
The Eagles opened the second quarter with a 4-0 run to pull ahead before Bair made a steal on defense and went coast-to-coast for the basket. Chelsea Burkhiser followed that up with a three-point play on an offensive rebound that made the score 16-12 with 4:54 left in the first half.
Bair scored the final six points of the quarter for SCR-I, which clung to a 22-20 lead at the intermission.
Lauren Dale banked in a three-pointer to temporarily give Knox County the lead to start the third period. Abi Feeney answered from behind the arc for SCR-I to knot the score, and a pair of free throws by Burkhiser put SCR-I on top for good at 27-25 as the Lady Tigers’ defense allowed just three more third period points.
Even after Wood was forced to the bench with three fouls, SCR-I kept the momentum as Sophia Hoskinson scored on an offensive rebound. The junior center followed it up with a hoop in the paint on a nifty pass from Burkhiser. Maddie Brassfield sank two big free throws before Hoskinson went to the line and calmly sank two more to push the lead to 35-26 and force a Knox County timeout at the 2:09 mark. A putback by Kassie Bulen just before the end of the period made the score 37-28.
Burkhiser capped off her final home game as a Lady Tiger with another huge offensive rebound that led to two more free throw makes to push the margin to double digits.
“We had a game plan coming into tonight, but it really boils down to the players making plays,” said Arnold. “There is a quote that says coaches win practices and players win games and that was definitely true tonight as these girls kept coming up with big play after big play. They were not going to be denied.”
Bair had another of her patented game changers when she picked off a Knox County pass and took it the length of the court for the fast break to give SCR-I additional breathing room with just over five minutes left to play.
Hoskinson tacked on another score in the paint before SCR-I put the game away at the free throw line for the 48-33 victory.
Scotland County closed out the regular season with a 24-1 record and a perfect 10-0 mark in the Tri-Rivers Conference to claim the league title. Bair led SCR-I in scoring with 12 points. Hoskinson finished with nine points and Burkhiser had seven points and 10 rebounds as eight different Lady Tigers got into the score book in a balanced team effort.