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Viqueen defense foils Pearl Cohn strategy in region semis

By RICKEY CLARDY ~ Sports Writer
Posted 2/28/23

UNIONVILLE — The Community Viqueens faced the strategy of the Pearl Cohn Lady Firebirds Monday night that was twofold: shorten the game and put the pressure on Viqueen post player M.J. …

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Viqueen defense foils Pearl Cohn strategy in region semis


UNIONVILLE — The Community Viqueens faced the strategy of the Pearl Cohn Lady Firebirds Monday night that was twofold: shorten the game and put the pressure on Viqueen post player M.J. Simmons. 
At the end of the day, neither plan came to fruition for the Lady Firebirds.
Community (24-6) warded off the slow pace of the Lady Firebirds and used a 17-point second half from Simmons along with a tenacious defensive effort to defeat Pearl Cohn 43-16 in the semifinals of the Region 4-AA tournament.
The win secured a spot in the region finals for the Viqueens.
After winning the opening tip-off, the Lady Firebirds stalled the ball for over two minutes as the Viqueen defense stayed back. 
The possession finally ended with a Pearl Cohn trey as the Lady Firebirds took the momentum and a 3-0 lead.
"It didn't surprise me, but it was a little unexpected," Coach Cody Pierce of the Viqueens said regarding the Lady Firebird slowdown tactics.
Once Community got the ball, the offense did not immediately click until a Shelby Cawthon basket at the 3:42 mark finally broke the ice for the Viqueens.
The Lady Firebirds increased their lead to 5-2 with 2:45 left before the Viqueens turned things around as consecutive treys by Addison Brothers and Haley Mitchell in the last minute punctuated an 8-0 run and gave Community a 10-5 lead heading to the second quarter.
Pearl Cohn stayed closed and only trailed 12-10 with 4:39 left before the Viqueens went into another gear.
With a half-court defense that forced multiple Lady Firebird turnovers, the Viqueens responded with an 11-0 run.  
Community connected on three treys during the run, including a three-pointer by Mitchell that banked off the backboard with six seconds left as Community took a 23-10 lead into the intermission.
After a first half that saw Simmons score four points, most of the points in the second half were on her line of the scorebook.
The Lady Firebirds had no answer as Simmons went to the glass and scored all nine Viqueen points in the third quarter. 
Simmons was a perfect 5-of-5 at the free throw line as Pearl Cohn could only manage two points. 
Community took a 32-12 lead to the final quarter.
"We stuck to the fundamentals, made sure we kept the ball in front, boxed out, leaving the one shot," Pierce said. "We did all that and it got the job done."
The points kept coming early and often for Simmons in the fourth quarter as the senior scored the first six Viqueen points to complete a personal run of 15 consecutive Community points. 
The Viqueens maintained their excellent defensive play and completed an 11-0 run to take a 38-12 lead with 3:52 left. 
Simmons finished with eight points in the quarter as the Viqueens closed out the win.
"We defended our tails off," Pierce said. "We held them to five baskets overall.  That's probably the best we've done all year." 
"They came in here and slowed the game down," Pierce added.  "I wanted to keep it a low-scoring game, but we still defended on our end and scored enough on offense to make them have to speed up with us."
Simmons scored 21 points, including an 11-of-11 performance at the free throw line to lead the Viqueens while Mitchell added 10.
The Viqueens were 12-of-13 at the charity stripe while Pearl Cohn was 4-of-4.
Community will look to win its second consecutive region championship as the Viqueens host East Nashville Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in a rematch of the Region 4-AA finals. 
East Nashville defeated Forrest in the other semifinal contest.   
Regardless of the outcome in the region finals, the Viqueens are assured of a game in the sectional round. 
A Community win would secure a home game in the sectional.  
"We're guaranteed that substate game, but we want to be playing right here," Pierce said. 
"So we need to take care of business Wednesday."
Pearl Cohn       5    5  2    4 — 16
Community    10  13  9  11 — 43
Pearl Cohn: Erianna Thomas 7, Ayanna Batey 4, Dyna'c Davis 3, Khira Johnson, Kayla Richardson, Madison Woodard 2, Miyah Martin, Nequila Rucker, Dominique Thomas.
Community: M. J. Simmons 21, Haley Mitchell 10, Shelby Cawthon 4, Addison Brothers 3, Zoey Dixon 2, Anna Haskins 3, Jacey Collier, Stevie Dickenson, Izzy Martinez, Jayla Mangrum.
3-Point goals: Pearl Cohn (2): Thomas, Davis; Community (5): Mitchell 3, Brothers, Haskins.
Halftime score: Community 23, Pearl Cohn 10.