BY TATE RUSSELL
sun sports writer
GREENEVILLE - North Greene fought hard until the final buzzer but the length of Mt. Juliet proved too much for the Lady Huskies to handle as they fell 56-47 Friday afternoon in the Landair Ladies Classic.
Lady Huskies head coach James Buchanan said, "We were out-sized and out-manned inside but I thought our kids fought really hard today."
The Lady Bears relied on 6-3 center Sally McCabe and 6-0 forward Ronjanae DeGray to clog the middle and clean glass making things difficult for North Greene. Mt. Juliet out-rebounded the Lady Huskies 32-19 and outscored them in the paint 36-6.
McCabe led all scorers with 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. DeGray dropped in 18 for Mt. Juliet who is coming off a state tournament appearance last season.
Without center Laikn Morrow in the game due to injury, North Greene lived by the three all afternoon, launching 20 and connecting on nine of them.
Mendy McNeese was the leading scorer for North Greene with 18 points. Dariane Bailey scored 12.
In the first half, North Greene trailed by as many 17 but they never gave up and quickly closed the gap. Katelyn Weems knocked down a step-up three from the left side then followed with a trey from the right wing. Bailey then sank a triple of her own from the left corner and the Lady Huskies cut the lead to 10 at the half.
The Lady Bears stretched the lead again coming out of halftime with a pair of three pointers by Savannah Sanders as part of an 8-0 run. Mt. Juliet stretched its lead to 16 points by the end of the third quarter.
Buchanan challenged his team to finish strong despite the circumstances, and they did exactly that. McNeese scored 11 in the final period while Lauren Baxter and Bailey each connected from behind the arc to close the gap. In the final period North Greene outscored the Lady Bears 19-12.
"We got down by 16 there in fourth and we just challenged them to win the quarter," Buchanan said. "Man, they played hard till the final horn and I'm very proud of them."
North Greene simply didn't have the size to compete with DeGray and McCabe underneath without Morrow. The center was out of her walking boot on Friday and Buchanan thinks she will be back soon but in her absence the Lady Huskies got their reserve post players some valuable minutes.
"Lauren Baxter, Shayna Harmon, Faith Mercer - those post players, they got better this week. It's unfortunate Laiken couldn't play but in the long run I think it's going to help us because those other three got so many minutes," Buchanan said.
The Ladies Classic is over for North Greene but as the smallest school in the field, they walk away optimistic.
Buchanan said, "This is a good tournament for us to come play in but we have bigger fish to fry than to win this tournament. Now we have to figure out how to beat Unaka and Cloudland and Hampton and this helps us. This tournament helped us get better and that's the point of coming in here."