Gatlinburg-Pittman girls come painfully close to district title

Feb. 18, 2014 @ 10:58 PM

 Haris Price thought she'd won it.

Teammates ran to the Gatlinburg-Pittman junior after her runner at the buzzer seemed to lift the Highlanders to a win over Fulton in Tuesday's District 3-AA championship game at Union County High School. But moments later, with the referees meeting at midcourt, it was clear there was more basketball to play.

The shot was ruled after the horn.

“I saw the ref over there saying it was no shot,” Price said. “You just have to shake it off. You have to be mentally tough and look past it.”

Price drove for her second would-be winner of the night in overtime, getting a go-ahead, three-point play with 16.1 seconds left. But that, too, was fleeting. A Tyanna Castle basket in the paint at the other end and a turnover on the ensuing inbounds play assured the Highlanders of second place in a 62-59 loss.

“It's really hard emotionally,” said Micki Werner. “It's an awful feeling, losing. We know we just have to look forward to Friday. We can't keep our heads down. We have to play through it.”

G-P, the district tournament's top seed, has just two days to prepare for Friday's region tournament opener against Catholic back in Gatlinburg. The Highlanders (25-4) looked poised to go into that game with some hardware after holding a 50-45 lead in the final 90 seconds of regulation and jumping ahead three times in overtime. But turnovers kept letting the Falcons (24-5) back into the game.

“We both had our chances,” said Fulton coach John Fisher. “Most of the time we didn't make good on the chances. It just so happened that we had the last one.”

G-P's opportunities were in large part thanks to Price, who had 29 points. Highlanders coach Katie Parton said the Falcons zone kept her team's offense stagnant early until Price took off. The junior scored 11 straight points with her team down 10 in the second quarter. She capped the run off by taking a couple dribbles inside the arc before stepping back and nailing a 3 to give G-P a 22-21 lead.

The game went back and forth in the second half, but with the inside opened up, Dannie Luczak and Werner had 10 of their combined 16 points after halftime. G-P had a 45-39 lead early in the fourth off consecutive Werner baskets before Fulton rallied to tie it. Macee Tinker ended the Falcons' run with a go-ahead 3-pointer and a pair of Werner free throws stretched the lead to 50-45 with just 1:29 to play.

That's when Fulton got back in it. The Highlanders had trouble inbounding the ball after a three-point play by Castle, who finished with 19 points. The turnover allowed KeKe McKinney (10 points) to tie the game but, after an empy G-P possession, she fouled out on a charge with 4.4 seconds left.

That set Price up for the game-winner that wasn't.

“I thought we had won the game and then we hadn't. (We) had to move on from that,” Werner said. “Win or lose, you just have to learn from it.”