CAK delivers more heartbreak for Gatlinburg-Pittman
For the second straight year, it looked like Gatlinburg-Pittman was headed to sub-state.
For the second straight game, the Highlanders were poised to pull off a big postseason win.
And then it fell apart. Again.
“I never thought that we would lose another semifinal in an overtime game,” said G-P coach Katie Parton. “Basically another buzzer shot. (Kelsey Naler) sinks a 3, whoever saw that coming? I definitely think it’s something I need to do differently to get them prepared for next year.”
Parton’s Highlanders led Christian Academy of Knoxville by 15 on Monday at the start of the fourth quarter inside Alcoa High School. But instead of preparing for the Region 2-AA final, Parton was trying to figure out how her team was eliminated after Naler hit that 3 in the final 10 seconds of overtime to give the Warriors a 76-73 victory.
“It’s an honor to be a part of this program,” said G-P senior Micki Werner. “It’s taught us so much. It made us better people. It just really hurts to go out this early when we know we were really better than that.”
Last year it was Alcoa that eliminated G-P (26-5) on a late shot in overtime. Last week, the Highlanders lost the District 3-AA championship to Fulton in overtime. This time around, Haris Price and her teammates tried to do everything to avoid the same fate against the Warriors (20-12).
A remarkable first half where Price knocked down five 3-pointers to help her team to a 15-point edge at halftime and her 28 points weren’t enough. Nor was Dannie Luczak’s 15 points, including her final bucket that tied the game at 73-73 with 36 seconds left in overtime. Ditto for Macee Tinker’s 12 points.
“We went into the half and said, ‘We’re going to win this game, it’s just a matter of how,’ ” said CAK coach Steve Denny. “With a minute and 30 seconds left (in the third), we took a timeout and we said, ‘We’re down 10, let’s cut it to five,’ and it went the other way.
“At the quarter break we said, ‘All right, we’re going to win this game, it’s just a matter of how. Here’s what we’re going to do.’ Our girls just kept believing. They’re fighters and they’re competitors.”
The Warriors responded, scoring the first 11 points of the fourth to cut that 15-point edge down to a much more manageable four.
But off the mat came Gatlinburg-Pittman. Macee Tinker nailed a 3 before Haris Price and Micki Werner picked up buckets to get the advantage back out to eight. Just a few free throws away from holding on, the Highlanders missed four of their seven attempts in the fourth.
“They’re big,” said Hunter Price. “To think that we work on them every single day. Mornings we come in before school.”
CAK’s Anne Hammaker tied the game via two free throws of her own with less than a second to play. She had 14 of her team-high 27 in the fourth before fouling out in overtime.
Haris Price fouled out with about a minute left in the extra session, but the Highlanders were still very much alive despite trailing by six early in the period. A Hunter Price 3 cut the lead in half before a free throw from Julia Maloney made it two. Luczak got to the basket and picked up a foul but missed the ensuing free throw, leaving the score tied.
That’s when Naler got the last of her 18 points on that game-winning 3. A G-P turnover made sure the Highlanders were going home.
“I think the girls did everything that they could do,” Parton said. “Maybe it was something on my end that I didn’t have them prepared for that extra four minutes. That’s something we definitely have to look into going into next year. I definitely thought my girls left it all out on the line.”