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Viqueens outlast Smith Co. in OT thriller to reach state tourney

By RICKEY CLARDY ~ Sports Writer
Posted 3/6/23

UNIONVILLE — With a state tournament berth on the line in a Class AA sectional game, the Community Viqueens faced an overtime deficit after the Smith County Lady Owls tied the game with a …

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Viqueens outlast Smith Co. in OT thriller to reach state tourney


UNIONVILLE — With a state tournament berth on the line in a Class AA sectional game, the Community Viqueens faced an overtime deficit after the Smith County Lady Owls tied the game with a three-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation.
With the momentum swinging in the direction of the Lady Owls, the Viqueens were forced to dig deep to overcome a Smith County team that came into Unionville with a game plan to control the pace of the game and draw fouls by driving to the basket.
At the end of the day, the Viqueens had come too far to be denied.
Community (26-6) took over in the final three minutes of overtime with clutch defensive plays and timely free throws to defeat the Lady Owls 62-55 and punch its ticket to the TSSAA Class AA state basketball tournament. 
"I knew going into that overtime, our seniors were not going to let them beat us," Coach Cody Pierce of the Viqueens said. "We were not going to lose that game."
"I could see it in their eyes," Pierce added.
In the opening eight minutes, it appeared the Viqueens would have a smooth ride to the state tournament in Murfreesboro.
After the Lady Owls banked in a trey to score the first basket of the game, the Viqueens, namely Addison Brothers, got hot from three-point land. 
Brothers connected on four treys and M.J. Simmons added five points as the Viqueens connected on six three-pointers in the opening quarter. 
Community ended the quarter with a 22-11 lead.
The Lady Owls woke up in the second quarter and changed the complexion of the game.
The Smith County offense was able to get into gear and went to the foul line often by driving to the basket. 
The strategy of getting Simmons into foul trouble worked for the Lady Owls as Simmons picked up her third foul with 3:22 left in the quarter and sat out the remainder of the half.
Meanwhile, the Lady Owls were adept at the foul line the entire game and went 6-of-7 at the line in the quarter to erase the Viqueen lead. 
Four points each by Simmons and Zoey Dixon were not enough to offset a 24-point Lady Owl quarter as the game was tied at 35-35 heading into the intermission.
"The early lead was nice, but they made a comeback," Pierce said.
"At halftime, I told them last year we were down eight going into the third quarter," Pierce added. "This time it's 0-0. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
"We put ourselves in a position even though we were not playing well," Pierce said.
The Viqueen defense was able to stymie the Smith County offense in the third quarter as Community edged out to a lead.
The Lady Owls could only score four points as the Viqueens used four points from Simmons to take the lead after Smith County led 37-35 early in the quarter. 
Despite Community taking a 44-39 lead to the fourth quarter, the fourth foul on Simmons with 41 seconds put a damper on the Viqueen chances.
With Simmons on the bench, the Viqueens were able to stay composed and led 50-46 before Simmons returned to the game with just over three minutes left.          
"It was tough leaving her on the bench, but I trust who's out there," Pierce said.  "We're a solid team all the way around."
The Lady Owls fought back and trailed 50-48 and had possession for over a minute with hopes of tying or taking the lead. 
But a Smith County miss at the 1:03 mark helped secure the Viqueen lead.
Three free throws by Brothers in the final minute sandwiched by a Lady Owl basket left the Viqueens with a 53-50 lead and 18 seconds left as Smith County took possession with a chance to tie the game.
With the Community defense hindering the Lady Owls from taking an open shot, Addie Hawkins of Smith County was able to find a sliver of daylight and connect on a trey from the top of the key with four seconds left to tie the game at 53-53.
An attempted three-pointer by the Viqueens missed at the buzzer as the game went into overtime.
The Lady Owls, with a renewed vigor, continued to find success at the free throw line and took the lead with two makes at the 2:58 mark to go ahead 55-53.
With their backs to the wall, the Viqueens rose to the occasion and shutout the Lady Owls the rest of the way.
After Simmons connected on a basket with 2:39 left, the Viqueen defense came to the forefront by forcing a Smith County walk with 1:40 remaining.
Simmons, who scored six points with the help of a 4-of-4 performance at the line in the extra frame, put the Viqueens ahead to stay with 1:28 left as Community went up 57-55.
After a Lady Owl miss, Dixon connected on two free throws with 40 seconds left to put Community up 59-55.
A Simmons steal and two resulting free throws gave the Viqueens some breathing room and put Community up 61-55 with 24 seconds left.
Dixon connected on a free throw with seven seconds remaining and ran out the clock after a steal as the Viqueens and their fans celebrated the team's first visit to the Big Dance since 2016.  
"I've got to give them a ton of credit," Pierce said in regards to the performance of Smith County. "They played with a lot of passion."
"It's win or go home.  Anybody's going to play their best game," Pierce added.  "We got their best game."
"We had to go to overtime, but we kept our composure," Pierce said.
"We did have a lot of turnovers we normally don't have, but at the end of the day, we got the stops we needed."
Simmons and Brothers each had 19 points to lead the Viqueens.
Airyn Enoch had 16 points to lead three Lady Owls in double figures. 
Hawkins netted 12 points while Merissa Spivey added 10.
The Viqueens were 15-of-20 at the foul line while Smith County was near-perfect after hitting 18-of-19 free throws.
The Viqueens narrowly missed out on the state tournament last season which was on the mind of Pierce.  
"My five years being here, one thing I told them about two weeks after we got put out last year, I said every year we get put out by one basket," Pierce said.
"You need to work every day to get that one basket, and tonight we got it."
Community will play Scotts Hill Thursday at 1:15 p.m. in the opening round of the TSSAA Class AA state tournament at Murphy Center in Murfreesboro. 
Scotts Hill defeated Manassas 70-27 in its sectional game.
Smith Co. 11  24  4  14  2 — 55
Community 22  13   9   9  9 — 62
Smith Co.: Airyn Enoch 16, Addie Hawkins 12, Merissa Spivey 10, Chloe Collins 9, Elle Haughton 6, Abigayle Hackett 2, Julia Dickerson.
Community: M. J. Simmons 19, Addison Brothers 19, Zoey Dixon 7, Haley Mitchell 7, Shelby Cawthon 4, Anna Haskins 6.
3-Point goals: Smith Co. (5): Collins 3, Hawkins, Spivey; Community (7): Brothers 4, Mitchell 2, Simmons.
Halftime score: Community 35, Smith Co. 35.