Lady Highlanders handle business
The win couldn’t have been much more perfect.
Hosting the district tournament for the first time in a spanking new gymnasium, the Gatlinburg-Pittman Lady Highlanders earned their first District 3-AA title Monday night with a 46-44 win over rival Fulton.
“I thought it was a very intense game,” G-P coach Katie Parton said. “It all came down to free throws and rebounds.
“It’s very exciting (to win the championship), in a new gym with a new atmosphere. It’s very exciting overall, and to get this here — hopefully it’s the beginning of something special.”
It’s G-P’s first district title since the 2007-2008 season, when the Blue and Gold were still in the old District 2-AA, and this year’s lone senior — Karsen Sims — was just a seventh grader with hoop dreams.
“It’s great (winning the title),” Sims said. “I cried like a baby. It means everything for me. Being the only senior and seeing everybody step up to the plate, with all the adversity we been through in the past years, it was our time to shine.”
And shine they did, especially Sims’ underclassmen teammates.
With their Division-I signee having one of her lowest scoring games of the year, other Lady Highlanders had to be their best — and they were.
Steady sophomore point guard Haris Price, and a pair of unheralded forwards that handled the lion’s share of the scoring for G-P.
Freshman Julia Maloney and junior Hunter Price were each in double-figures for the Lady Highlanders.
Maloney’s points came primarily in the paint, where she scrapped it out with the likes of the Lady Falcons’ physical post players for most of the game’s 32 minutes.
Hunter Price, the older of the Price girls, had an incredible stretch for the Lady Highlanders, scoring nine-straight points — which would essentially put the Lady Falcons in the rearview for good.
“That’s what’s great about our team,” the team’s senior leader said. “If a couple of us are off or not scoring well, we’ve got people off the bench that can pick it up. We’re young, but we all play like seniors.”
G-P had battled back from an 11-point second quarter deficit early in the third quarter, to pull within four points at 28-24.
Then Moneisha Thomas gunned in a big 3-pointer to boost the lead back to 31-24 and briefly regain the momentum for the Lady Falcons.
That’s when the Lady Highlanders, sparked by nine-straight from Price, showed their mettle with an amazing 15-0 run into the fourth quarter, igniting the G-P fanbase and earning the team a commanding 39-31 lead.
Coach Parton was amazed by her team’s effort, but not surprised.
“I was never worried (when we trailed),” she said. “I know what they can do — they’ve (come back) two or three times this season.”
Fulton got within striking distance late in the fourth, but the resilient G-P bunch, would not quit. Making big free throws late and turning away a last-ditch 3-pointer from the Lady Falcons earned the Lady Highlanders the monumental win and a date with District 4-AA’s fourth seed in the first round of the region.
After the game, Sims credited G-P’s success this season to two things.
“The reason why we’re so successful is we come in and work so hard,” she said. “We always want it more than our oppoentes, every game we play, we want it more.
“And our chemisty — the bond we have — is unbreakable. We all love other each other.”
With a team that features just one senior and a huge group of sophomores and freshmen, that chemistry is rare.
“I don’t know how it happened so well,” Sims admitted. “It’s just one of those things that was meant to be.”
After the Price’s combined 22 points and Maloney’s 10, junior Mickie Werner had five points for G-P. Sims netted four, followed by Macee Tinker with three and Dannie Luczak with two.
Sims and Maloney were tabbed for the All-Tournament team, while Haris Price was named the tournament’s MVP.
Victoria Griffin led Fulton with 15 points. Jayda Johnson, Fulton’s star post player, was limited to 10 points by Luczak and Maloney inside.