BY DARREN REESE
SUN SPORTS EDITOR
The Chuckey-Doak Middle School girls' basketball team had to replace three starters and a head coach from last year's state sectional championship team.
That didn't matter to the new-look Lady Knights, though, as they entered 2013-14 with a strong desire to duplicate that success.
Saturday afternoon they accomplished that goal. Chuckey-Doak used a strong defensive effort to open up a first-half cushion and held on for a 27-24 over Grace Christian in the TMSAA Class AA State Sectional finals at Pigeon Forge Middle School.
The Lady Knights finished the year with a 23-2 overall record.
"This is just a testament to the hard work that all these girls put in," Chuckey-Doak's first-year head coach Jason Rush said. "We have nine eighth-graders on this team, and they wanted to go out as champions."
"They never quit the entire year. They worked hard to get here, and kept getting better as the season went along. I couldn't be more proud of them."
Chuckey-Doak only had four players make the scorebook, but that proved to be enough.
Erica Lamb led the way with eight points and was named the Tournament MVP.
Brittney Ramsey contributed seven points, followed by Taylor Southerland and Kassidy Holloway with six each. Southerland posted a team-high 14 rebounds.
Those four Lady Knights, along with starting point guard Caleigh Norton, were named to the All-Tournament team.
It took a while for both teams to get warmed up as the score was tied at 2-2 with 2:40 left in the first quarter.
Chuckey-Doak was the team to get going first. Holloway and Lamb each had six first-half points and the Lady Knights enjoyed a 19-9 lead at intermission.
The Chuckey-Doak defense limited Grace Christian to a 3-of-15 shooting effort in the first half and forced 10 turnovers.
The Lady Knights went cold, offensively, in the third as a field goal and two free throws by Ramsey were the only points they could manage. This allowed the Lady Rams to pull within 23-16 heading into the final quarter.
Chuckey-Doak led 27-20 with just over a minute left in the game, when they committed a couple of turnovers that helped Grace Christian make things more interesting.
Kristen Hunt scored six points in the quarter and Santana White added a bucket with 5.1 seconds showing to make it 27-24.
Grace still needed to foul three times to get Chuckey-Doak in the bonus, though, and despite trying, the Lady Rams were unable to regain possession.
Hunt finished with 11 points for Grace Christian.