JASPER, Tenn.–Last season at this time, a win in the region semifinals may have been a forgone conclusion, but this 2017 squad has had to fight tooth and nail for a chance at a State berth.
With a feisty squad backed by senior Tilly Dodson, the Eaglettes were in full form Monday night in their upset victory over 5A’s top-seeded Silverdale Academy, 67-49. The most overwhelming factor in the win, though, was pure grit and determination to keep this season alive as long as possible.
“I’ve got three seniors that did not want this to be their last game,” Van Buren County head coach Tyler Sapp explained. “It was a goal of ours at the beginning of the year to make it to a substate game, and regardless of what happens on Wednesday, we’ll get to do that.”
Dodson, in particular, lit the fire that burned down the Seahawk offense for most of the first half.
“Tilly played out of her mind tonight,” Sapp continued. “She was just all over the floor, and she played the best game she’s ever played in her life as far as I’m concerned, and she just did not want to lose this ball game. She wanted it more than anybody else did.”
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Coupled with the play of Kinzie Johnson and Mallory Christian, Dodson was able to hit and steal from every corner of the court, racking up 16 points going into the locker room at halftime. Her team held a 36-13 lead at the half with Silverdale unable to capitalize on limited Van Buren mistakes.
“We just want to try and shut Rachel Sanders down,” Sapp said. “We wanted to hold her down as much as we could and make sure that the other players were taking the shots. They got a lot of open looks, but they didn’t make them. We were flying around all over the place and made them miss a bunch of those shots.”
As the game went on, the comfort level for the Eaglettes grew, almost as if they were playing on their home court.
“Tilly’s had her best two games of the year, by far, on this court, and we just play really, really well here,” Sapp explained. “It’s the little minute details. Having the early game and standing for the national anthem, it kind of gets them in the flow a lot better like a regular season game. The drive here is long for us, but Wednesday night will be our sixth time playing here this season, so we’re very familiar with this place.”
After the first half surge by Dodson, she would end the night with 30 points. Christian would go 9-for-12 in the free throw department to finish the night with 17.
For Sapp, the win pulls a proverbial monkey off his back as he continues the streak of sectional runs with the opportunity to host in his first year as head coach of the Eaglettes.
“I wear two fitbits for my basketball girls, and my heart rate was 109 at tip-off,” Sapp said. “It take a lot of stress off, but we still want to beat Marion. We still want to win the region, so it’s a temporary relief. You’ve got to get back on the grindstone.”
Van Buren County travels back down to Marion County Wednesday for their eighth rematch with the Lady Warriors in just two seasons. Tip-off begins at 7:00 PM Central time.
SBA — 6 | 7 | 15 | 21 || 49
VBHS — 19 | 17 | 12 | 19 || 67
SBA (49) — Emily Harkleroad (17), Katie White (12), Rachel Sanders (10)
VBHS (67) — Tilly Dodson (30), Mallory Christian (17), Kinzie Johnson (13)