By WAYNE PHILLIPS
Sports Editor Emeritus
JOHNSON CITY - Saturday night's District 1-A girls' semifinal game between North Greene and Hampton had a familiar feel to it: one that wasn't too pleasant for Huskies Coach James Buchanan.
Earlier this season at North Greene, the Huskies had Hampton on the ropes with a big first half lead, only to see the Lady Bulldogs come roaring back and take a big regular season win.
In the tourney game here at Science Hill High School Saturday, the Huskies had dominated the Bulldogs in the first half, leading 22-9 after Hampton made only two field goals the entire opening two periods.
Sure enough, Hampton made a run. But this time, the Huskies were up to the challenge, holding off Dorothy Dugger and her teammates and North Greene has moved to tonight's district championship game with a solid 46-27 victory over their old nemesis.
"I thought, 'Oh, no, here she comes again,'" Buchanan smiled when talking about Dugger's third quarter arousal. "But we answered. I told the girls at halftime that they were going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at us in the third. Hampton did a great job of mixing up their pressure and causing us some trouble. But we answered, and I'm proud to be in the finals."
The Huskies, now 23-8, will take on Cloudland, who narrowly escaped Unaka 34-33 in the other semifinal game, in the championship tilt tonight at 7:30. Hampton and Unaka play for third place at 6:00. All four teams advance to the Region 1-A Tournament. First round games will be at the home court of the top two teams in each district, which means the Huskies will host a game on Friday, either Clinch or Washburn. The semifinals and finals will be played at Chuckey-Doak High School.
Hampton and North Greene know each other so well, it was a game of cat and mouse early. Defense was the key.
"I don't know if it's our defense ... I'd like to think so," Buchanan said. "But I also know Hampton just didn't have a good night shooting the ball. But we had some people step up and we took care of the ball on offense. I thought Dariane Bailey really played well, and Corinne Guelli ... she played 30 of 32 minutes in that game and worked hard on defense. She played a great game. The girls did exactly what we asked them to do, and as a coach that's all you can want your players to do."
The Huskies made only three turnovers the entire first half against Hampton's pressure. Senior Bailey and senior Laiken Morrow each scored six points in the opening quarter that boosted the Huskies to a 14-5 lead as the Bulldogs made only 2-of-12 shots from the floor.
North Greene's defensive intensity and focus was even stronger in the second frame as they held Hampton without a field goal (0-for-7) and went to the locker rooms with a 22-9 lead.
But everybody knew Hampton would make a run, and they did. After going without a first half field goal, Dugger scored four of them in the third as the Bulldogs used an 8-2 run to close a 25-13 deficit down to 28-21 with 2:17 left in the period.
The answer North Greene was looking for came toward the end of the quarter. After Dugger drove the baseline for a bucket to make it 30-23 with just under two minutes to go, Bailey was fouled on a 3-point shot and she made two of them.
Seconds later freshman Katelyn Weems calmly buried a long 3-pointer from the corner, and after a Hampton miss, Morrow banked in a baseline jumper at the buzzer to finish a run of their own that gave them a 38-23 lead.
Both teams lost a key part of the game in the first minute of the fourth. Junior Mendy McNeese picked up her fourth foul and went to the bench with 7:31 left. Seconds later, Dugger had to be helped off the court after an apparent knee injury and was unable to return.
Without their leader in Dugger, Hampton could not rally again and the Huskies settled for taking care of the ball and going to the foul line. McNeese returned with under two minutes left and the Huskies got the ball in her hands, where she responded by making six straight charity tosses to pull away.
The Huskies were balanced as McNeese and Bailey each scored 13 and Morrow added 10 points and seven rebounds. Hampton (23-8) got 10 points from Dugger and nine rebounds from Paige Montgomery.
NORTH GREENE (46): Guelli 1-1 1-2 4, Dariane Bailey 5-11 2-3 13, Laiken Morrow 3-9 4-6 10, Weems 2-5 1-1 6, Mendy McNeese 3-8 6-6 13, Baxter 0-0 0-0 0, Mercer 0-1 0-1 0. TOTALS: 14-35 14-19 46.
HAMPTON (27): Dorothy Dugger 4-13 2-2 10, Olvera 2-6 1-2 6, Guinn 1-5 0-0 2, Bowers 1-8 0-0 2, Mongomery 2-3 2-2 6, Swearingen 0-0 1-2 1, K.Irick 0-1 0-0 0, Weir 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 10-36 6-8 27.
3-Point Goals: NG-4 (Guelli, Bailey, Weems, McNeese). Ha-1 (Olvera).
Score by quarters:
North Greene 14 8 16 8--46
Hampton 5 4 14 4--27