Lady Warriors bow out with  loss to Falcons

By Matt Hill

   The third time was a charm and the fourth quarter was the key for the Volunteer Lady Falcons on Saturday night.
   Volunteer outscored Happy Valley 9-2 in the final eight minutes to knock off the Lady Warriors for the first time in three attempts this season with a 41-38 triumph in the quarterfinals of the District 1-AA girls tournament at Treadway Gym.
   The win guarantees Volunteer its first regional berth in five years.
   "The game tonight could have gone either way, just like the two times we played them in the regular season," Volunteer head coach Dennis Anderson said.
   It definitely could have.
   The Lady Falcons took the lead at 39-38 with 1:38 to go when Sarah Mullins nailed a key bucket.
   The game remained tied with 31 seconds to go when the Lady Warriors Mandy Byrd took it to the hole, but the basketball just didn't go in.
   The Lady Warriors received another chance after the Lady Falcons failed to score on their next possession. Happy Valley's Terra Whaley put up a desperation shot on that next possession, but that was not meant to be.
   Volunteer's Morgan Smith, who scored all eight of her points in the second half, was fouled and made two big free-throws to make the score 41-38.
   Happy Valley did get off two three-point attempts in the final seconds, but the young Lady Warrior squad came up short.
   "We got two or three good looks, but we just couldn't get a shot down," Happy Valley head coach Ben Godsey said. "It could have gone either way. But Volunteer hustled and got after us. It was a good basketball game."
   Happy Valley led by as many as nine points in the third quarter, but only made one field goal in the final period.
   For the game, the Lady Warriors shot 31 percent from the field.
   With the Lady Warriors using a relentless press against Volunteer, Godsey thought his team might have gotten a little bit tired late in the game.
   "We got a little fatigued, because I didn't rotate as many players as I normally do," Godsey said. "We kind of froze up there in the fourth quarter. We didn't look to attack. We didn't handle the basketball very well, and every game we've had with them this year has been like that. It could have gone either way. They came back there and got us at the end. They played a good basketball game, what else can you say. They made more plays than we did."
   A big reason the Lady Warriors had a good lead in the third quarter was due to the play of Mandy Byrd. Byrd finished with 16 points and had three steals.
   "Mandy was ready to play, and she gave us 110 percent," Godsey said.
   Godsey felt real bad that the season ended on such a bad note for his only senior. Crystal Nave will definitely be missed by Godsey and the Lady Warrior squad.
   "Crystal Nave has really improved for us," Godsey said. "She's in her third year of basketball, and it's the only senior we have. I feel bad for her right now, because it hurts to lose. But Crystal is ready to play every day and she gives 100 percent. She's got a big heart, and we're proud of her."
   Leah Johnson led Volunteer in scoring with 10, while Brandi Dugger added nine points for Happy Valley.
   The season may be over for the Lady Warriors, but they were one of the area's most improved teams this year. And with almost everybody back next year, Godsey thinks Happy Valley girls basketball is back on the map.
   "We are improving and we hope to keep improving every year," Godsey said. "They've worked awful hard. That's what I told them in the locker room. I'm proud of them. I'm proud of the way they've worked and improved.
   "We're going to continue to improve every day. Most of our kids are playing softball probably starting tomorrow, and they're good at that, too. We'll be back in the gym after softball, and we're just going to keep working hard.
   "I like this team and I like these kids. I'm not really going to even think about this anymore. I'm going to start thinking about softball and next year's basketball season."
   Volunteer will advance to play host school Elizabethton on Tuesday night.
   Sullivan Central 45
   Sullivan North 43
   Julie LeSueur hit a basket at the buzzer to give the Lady Cougars a narrow win in the four vs. five matchup.
   Kristi Moody topped the Lady Cougars with 21 points, while Kristen Hughes had 14 to lead the Lady Raiders.
   Central advances to take on top-seeded Unicoi County Tuesday.