'Lander girls draw tough Moore County

    After Saturday's substate win over Oneida, the Cloudland Lady Highlanders were patiently awaiting Sunday's opponent draw for the TSSAA 1-A State Tournament.
   Hoping to go out on a winning note, Cloudland will have to work hard to earn a victory this week in Murfreesboro.
   The 'Landers were placed in arguably the toughest bracket, facing Moore County on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. while defending State Champion Ezell-Harding (27-5) and Westmoreland (31-2) make up the other contest.
   Peabody and Friendship Christian open the first round of play, while Harriman and Huntingdon will battle before the second half of the bracket takes shape.
   "We're in a good place," said Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield, "When you get down there, they're all good."
   The Moore County Raiderettes (32-4) are coming off solid victories against ranked opponents. They have won 17 straight games this season and feature Miss Basketball nominee Abby Fanning.
   "I don't know a whole lot about them, but they have stayed in the top five all year," Birchfield said. "Abby Fanning is a Miss Basketball nominee and she is tough."
   Fanning (5-2, PG) has excelled during her senior year and has played exceptionally during the postseason.
   She led her squad with 15 points in their 52-40 substate win over Franklin Road Academy on Saturday and helped the Raiderettes knock off top-ranked Wayne County, 36-32, with a 24-point night in the regional championship.
   Moore County is led inside by Fallon Blackburn (6-0, P) and Renata Draine (2-8. P). They have got consistant scoring from LaShonda Holt (5-4, G), Eccho Staples (5-4, G) and Kaleigh Fletcher (5-8, G-P) who all have contributed this season.
   On paper, Cloudland matches up well against the Raiderettes and once you get on the floor in the Murphy Center, the game can go either way.
   "I think we can match up with them," he said, "They have a big post and their guards are the size of ours. Hopefully we can give them a good game."
   Moore County is as talented on the bench as they are on the floor. They are coached by Gayle Sessons (803 wins) who is the winningest active high school girls coach in the nation and holds the second most wins all time in Tennessee high school girls play.
   Her squad was the state runner-up in 1998 and has been to the 'glass house' on many occasions.
   Their lone losses this season are to Lebanon (38-28), Upperman (48-46) and state tournament teams Harriman (38-36) and Ezell-Harding (51-44).
   They are averaging 50 points per game while their opponents are scoring around 35.
   A big key to the contest will be the inside match-up as Cloudland owns a crucial size advantage over the Raiderettes at the post position.
   The Lady Highlanders will need a stingy display of defense like they showed against Hancock County for the regional championship.
   Moore County is a very tough team and the Lady 'Landers will need to work on lucky breaks and cut down on turnovers at this stage of the game.