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Viqueens pull out last-second victory in state tourney thriller

By RICKEY CLARDY ~ Sports Writer
Posted 3/10/23

MURFREESBORO – Just win and survive. That was the motto of the Community Viqueens Thursday afternoon in their quarterfinal game of the TSSAA Class 2A state tournament against the Scotts Hill …

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Viqueens pull out last-second victory in state tourney thriller


MURFREESBORO – Just win and survive.
That was the motto of the Community Viqueens Thursday afternoon in their quarterfinal game of the TSSAA Class 2A state tournament against the Scotts Hill Lady Lions. 
After being down by six points with four minutes to play, the Viqueens created turnovers with their defense and used two free throws by M.J. Simmons with three seconds left and survived some last-second drama to defeat the Lady Lions 53-52 and advance to the Class AA state semifinals.   
“This group has always had a lot of fight going back to their freshman, sophomore, and junior years,” Coach Cody Pierce of the Viqueens said.
“Our goal starting last year was to get to the state tournament and we came up short,” Pierce added. “We wanted another shot at some of the best teams in the state.”  
With both teams going into the game with identical 26-6 records, the free throw prowess of the Viqueens was the difference in the end as the lead changed hands 10 times in the first half and the teams stayed within six points of each other the entire contest.
Community (27-6) opened up hot with three treys in the opening quarter. 
Zoey Dixon, Addison Brothers, and Haley Mitchell each connected on three-pointers as the Viqueens used a 5-0 run to take their biggest lead at 11-6 with 3:28 left. 
The Viqueens ended the quarter with a 13-11 advantage.
Simmons led the Viqueens with four points as the teams traded baskets for a big part of the second quarter before a Jaden Scates trey with one second left gave the Lady Lions a 25-24 lead heading into the intermission.
The patience of the Lady Lion offense produced several high-percentage shots in the third quarter as Scotts Hill upped its lead. 
Despite eight points from Simmons, the Lady Lions took their biggest lead at 32-26 with 5:40 remaining. 
Scotts Hill hit only 1-of-6 shots from the charity stripe but still ended the quarter with a 41-37 advantage.
There were several plot twists as the Viqueens looked to regain their form in the fourth quarter.
An Anna Haskins three-pointer at the 7:14 mark put Community within one at 41-40, but the Lady Lions rebounded with five consecutive points to take a 46-40 lead with 6:05 left.
With the Viqueens still down by six with 4:03 left, the Community defense went into another gear and forced turnovers on three straight Scotts Hill possessions. 
The Viqueens converted three points from the turnovers and trailed 46-43 with 3:21 left.
Following a Lady Lion miss, Dixon, who had just returned to the game after suffering a cut to her forehead, put up a three-point attempt that bounced around the rim and went in to tie the game at 46-46 with 2:25 left.
A Heather Bartholomew layup put the Lady Lions ahead 48-46 before Haskins hit her second trey of the quarter with 1:06 left to put Community up 49-48 and give the Viqueens their first lead of the second half.
After Dixon committed her fifth foul, the Lady Lions could not connect on the front end of a 1-and-1 with 50 seconds left as the Viqueens clung to their one-point lead.
On the ensuing Community possession, Brothers was fouled with 33 seconds left. 
The senior connected on both ends of the 1-and-1 to put the Viqueens up 51-48 before Scates drilled a trey with 28 seconds left to tie the game at 51-51.
The Viqueens could not connect on a trey to take the lead, but Shelby Cawthon came up big by forcing a jump ball on the rebound. 
Community kept possession on the alternative possession and called timeout with 14 seconds left to set up a last shot.  
The Viqueens got the ball to Simmons, who drove to the goal and was tripped with 3.4 seconds left. 
Simmons connected on both ends of the 1-and-1 to give Community a 53-51 lead and an apparent win.
After inbounding the ball, the Lady Lions put up a desperation heave from the back court and were the beneficiaries of a Viqueen foul, giving Scotts Hill new life and three free throws with 0.5 seconds left.
As the Viqueen faithful held on with bated breath, the Lady Lions missed the first two foul shots before connecting on the third as the Community lead was cut to 53-52. 
The Viqueens threw the ball in as time expired and escaped with the state tournament win.
“We did not play like we normally do,” Pierce said. “We had some nerves.”
“At the end of the day, the last two games all we’ve done is survive,” Pierce added. “That’s all you’ve got to do.”
Simmons scored 19 points and Brothers added 11 to lead the Viqueens.
Bartholomew led the Lady Lions with 17 points.
The most glaring statistic was from the free throw line as Community connected on 14-of-17 tries while the Lady Lions were just 4-of-13.
“We just don’t give up,” Simmons said. 
“We’ve been working hard for this for four years and then most of us have been playing together since kindergarten.”
Dixon talked about returning to the game after drawing blood on her forehead from her hard hit on the floor.
“I didn’t have a headache and I wasn’t dizzy, so I said fix me up and let’s go,” Dixon said.
Community will play Westview at 6 p.m. Friday in a semifinal game of the Class AA state tournament at MTSU. 
Westview, the defending Class 2A champion, defeated York Institute 44-42 in the waning seconds of its quarterfinal game.
Pierce commented on the large contingent of fans that came from Unionville for the game.
“They showed up. There were a lot of people here,” Pierce said.
“It would be a good time to rob a bank in Unionville if we had one.”
Scotts Hill 11  14  16  11 — 52
Community 13  11  13  16 — 53
Scotts Hill: Heather Bartholomew 17, Julie Hampton 9, Jaden Scates 9, Lacie Dunavant 6, Kaylin Wade 5, Mallory Puckett 6, Deanna Pusser.
Community: M. J. Simmons 19, Addison Brothers 11, Zoey Dixon 8, Haley Mitchell 7, Shelby Cawthon 1, Anna Haskins 7, Jacey Collier.
3-Point goals: Scotts Hill (6): Bartholomew 2, Scates 2, Hampton, Wade; Community (7): Brothers 2, Dixon 2, Haskins 2, Mitchell.
Halftime score: Scotts Hill 25, Community 24.