They played to win against the Skyline Lady Vikings, and win they did.
Behind a 34-point, 11-rebound performance from senior center Audrianna Hargitt, the Lady Tigers captured a 73-57 victory that propels them to Friday afternoon’s Class 1A regional final.
Cedar Bluff (16-15) will face a familiar foe in county and area rival Spring Garden (19-12) at 12:30 p.m., for the right to advance to the state tournament. It will be the fourth time the two teams will cross paths this season. The Lady Panthers have won the previous three meetings.
“I thought the girls prepped really hard (for Skyline) in the short turnaround we had,” Cedar Bluff coach Joe Carpenter said “Our game plan worked, and I was really proud of them for the hard work they did and the effort they gave.
“Being our first time here, it’s easy to be nervous, but I think we got over that pretty quick. I was extremely proud of the outcome of the game.”
As Carpenter said, if there were any nerves, the Lady Tigers didn’t show them. They jumped out to a 14-6 advantage at the end of the first quarter, but the Lady Vikings (21-9)fought their way back to trail by only a 25-22 margin at halftime.
Hargitt took things on her shoulders even more in the second half. She exploded for 23 points in leading Cedar Bluff to the victory.
“Coach (Johnny) Amison and Coach Carpenter told me they can’t stop the post, and we had to get layups,” Hargitt said. “If it wasn’t for Katie (McGinnis) breaking the press and us working together as a team, we wouldn’t have gotten those layups. It’s a team effort.”
Speaking of McGinnis, she contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
“Coach (Carpenter) tells me to just go, and I try my hardest not to get frustrated,” McGinnis said. “It usually happens when people are guarding me, but our coaches told me the refs would call (fouls) this time, so I just pushed it as hard as I could. Audrey was open pretty much every single time I saw her.”
Skyline, known for its 3-point shooting, was only 6-for-34 from beyond the arc, but still managed to keep things close for the better part of three quarters. The Lady Vikings trailed by only a 49-42 margin heading into the fourth quarter, but Cedar Bluff went on a 24-15 run in the fourth for the final.
“We had to come out and put pressure on their 3-point shooters, and we had to rebound,” Carpenter said. “We had to talk to ourselves on the court, and we had to box. We felt like if we did those things, we’d be successful, and we were. It worked out well for us tonight.”
Junior forward Jordan McCarver led the Lady Vikings with 21 points, six rebounds, six steals and three assists. Junior guards Kelsey Ivey and Kristen Martin both netted 13 points. Martin connected on three treys and also had five rebounds, two steals and two assists.
Senior forward Hannah Leach added 14 points, eight rebounds and three steals for Cedar Bluff. Junior guard Rylie Johnson contributed 10 points, three rebounds and two assists.
With Skyline now dispatched, Cedar Bluff can turn its attention to preparing for another battle with Spring Garden.
“It’s just another game,” Carpenter said. “We’re just honored to be this far. We’re going to try to come out Friday afternoon and compete. Coach (Ricky) Austin and I are good friends. They’ll have a good game plan, and we will too. Hopefully, we’ll play our best and may the best team win.”