UNIONVILLE — Entering Wednesday night’s Region 4-AA championship, Viqueen coach Cody Pierce and Community knew that East Nashville was coming for payback after the Viqueens’ 53-41 …
UNIONVILLE — Entering Wednesday night’s Region 4-AA championship, Viqueen coach Cody Pierce and Community knew that East Nashville was coming for payback after the Viqueens’ 53-41 win over the Lady Eagles a season ago.
Knowing the target on their back, the Viqueens (25-6) entered Wednesday night’s region title rematch with a clear focus in a game that had plenty on the line.
Community came out firing from the perimeter early and relied on a game-high, 26-point effort by senior M.J. Simmons as Community claimed a dominant 70-52 win over East Nashville (23-8) to repeat as Region 4-AA ‘Queens.
“The girls just came out ready to play and executed. They have all year, but they got up for this game tonight. Just have to give credit to all the girls. They work their tail off every day and it showed tonight how hard they really work,” Pierce said.
From the opening tip-off, it was clear Community was out to make a statement, as the Purple and Gold had no interest in giving East Nashville an inch of momentum at evening the score from last year’s region title.
Senior Haley Mitchell drilled a corner 3-pointer, just 35 seconds in to the game, and the Viqueens held a lead they never gave up.
It was an all-out assault from the perimeter in the first frame as Community launched five treys as part of a 25-point opening frame.
Of the five made three-pointers, Mitchell hit two and Anna Haskins added two more off the bench.
That perimeter barrage was complemented by the inside assault by Simmons, who effectively attacked the paint and worked her way to the line, where she cashed in on a perfect 6-of-6 attempts in the first quarter.
While all pistons were firing away for the Viqueens on the offensive front, defensively, the Purple and Gold gave the Lady Eagles fits.
After Simmons drew a foul on a shot with 2:48 left in the quarter, East Nashville was assessed a technical foul on the same play, which Simmons was able to convert into four points for Community.
East Nashville’s Jaslynn Walter led the way for the Lady Eagles with six points in the opening quarter, yet Community still held a commanding 25-12 lead after the first period.
While Community held a double-digit lead after the first quarter, East’s Kenya Fairs sparked a 19-point effort by the Lady Eagles that cut the Viqueen lead to six points by halftime.
“We had some turnovers. We gave them seven points off turnovers and and gave them four to six off offensive rebounds,” Pierce said.
Those turnovers and points off put-backs allowed the Lady Eagles to cut the Viqueens’ lead in half.
While East was battling early-game foul trouble, Community entered the third quarter and was able to get right back to its bread and butter as Mitchell drilled a three-pointer to push the Viqueen lead back to eight points barely 35 seconds into the half.
The biggest moment of the quarter came at the 5:48 mark of the third period when Simmons scored off the block, marking her 2,000th career point with the Viqueens—a mark previously only achieved by former Viqueen Sarah Pierce.
Simmons’ 2,000'th point sucked the wind out of the Lady Eagles’ sails and ignited the Viqueen faithful to the point East could never recover.
Community stretched its lead back to double figures by the end of the quarter and held East to single digits in the fourth frame to win its second-straight region title.
Defensively, it was another stellar effort by the Purple and Gold that held its 16th-straight opponent to 52 points or less.
East’s Kenya Fairs and Jaslynn Walters combined for 31 points, but were mostly held in check, particularly in the second half, in Wednesday night’s region final.
“There’s a couple players on their team that are going to get their points, but our goal is to make every shot as tough as possible and make sure we leave them to one shot,” Pierce said.
East managed just four points over the final 6:43 of regulation on Wednesday, while Community stretched its lead to the biggest margin of the night by the end of regulation.
The Viqueens utilized a complementary offense, with Simmons dominating inside, while Mitchell highlighted the perimeter assault.
“Everybody on the court is a threat and that makes it tough for teams having to guard us because we have such an inside game with M.J. and then the rest of them do a great job of knocking down three’s and every now and then, attack it. When everyone on the court can score, you’re going to be hard to defend,” Pierce said.
Mitchell hit a game-high five three-pointers and scored 19 points, but it was Simmons who led all scorers with 26 points.
“It felt like she hit 2,000 tonight by herself. She has a lot of good teammates around her. She’s a tough player. Everything runs through her, but it helps when everybody else can score as well,” Pierce said.
The second-straight region title is a sign of success and determination, led by the senior class that’s bought into Pierce’s vision for the program.
So far, the results speak for themselves.
“These seniors have been committed since they were freshmen and last year, we got a lot better. They have built a program. The seniors have built exactly what I want and have bought into everything,” Pierce said.
While Wednesday night’s win secured the second-straight region title for Community, it also keeps the Viqueens at home in the Class 2A state sectional round on Saturday night.
“It’s awesome and they knew what was at stake tonight. We’ve been here the last two games. We play well here. We can practice here and just feel at home for the next couple of days and come play on Saturday,” Pierce said.
Community will get one more home game for its senior class on Saturday night in the state sectional, with a trip to the Murphy Center on the line for the first time in seven years.
Smith County will travel to Unionville after falling to York Institute, 57-20, in the Region 3-AA championship on Wednesday night.
“They (Smith Co.) are a well-coached team. Coach (Matt) Ferrell is a good coach. He’s going to have a good game plan. We’re going to have to come out and execute. They know how to defend as well. It may be a defensive battle for a bit,” Pierce said.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday night in Unionville.
E. Nashville 12 19 13 8 — 52
Community 25 12 20 13 — 70
E. Nashville: Kenya Fairs 18, Jaslynn Walter 13, Jayla horton 10, Santiea Harvell 5, Cleo Johnson 4, Trinity McGee 2.
Community: M.J. Simmons 26, Haley Mitchell 19, Anna Haskins 9, Zoey Dixon 7, Addison Brothers 4, Shelby Cawthon 4, Jayla Mangrum.
3-Point goals: Community (10): Mitchell 5, Haskins 3, Dixon, Brothers; E. Nashville (4): Johnson, Harvell, Walter, Fairs.
Halftime score: Community 37, E. Nashville 31.