By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Two teams that have faced adversity all season met on the home court of the Bartlett Lady Panthers Friday night for the First Round Region 7-3A Basketball Tournament.
The host Lady Panthers have been hovering around .500 all season and dropped the District 14-3A title game to the Arlington Lady Tigers. Meanwhile, Bartlett’s opponent — the Brighton Lady Cardinals — entered the game as the District 13-3A No. 3 seed, falling short of their championship goal.
The crew from Tipton County stared adversity in the face one more time during the 2019-20 season, trailing 47-36 in the fourth quarter. Then Lady Cardinal senior Albany Dunn sparked her team’s comeback with two clutch three-pointers to force overtime.
It took a second extra period for the Lady Panthers to prevail and advance to the Regional Semifinals with a 67-62 win over Brighton.
“Really, really good for this group,” Bartlett Head Coach Dion Real said. “I just told them, You’ve battled adversity all year long.’ Typically when things have hit, we’ve gone the other way. For them to show up tonight, keep fighting and keep fighting to get the win is very big.”
The first half proved both teams were evenly matched, with Bartlett holding a 22-21 lead. Then the Lady Panthers outscored Brighton 17-10 to take an 8-point lead into the last quarter of regulation.
Bartlett continued to build its lead with guards Taylor Woodhouse and Nevaeh Scott heating up.
Scott drilled a pair of three-pointers to close out the third quarter. In the fourth quarter she made a layup after a Woodhouse three-point play to make the score 47-36.
When it looked like Brighton was down for the count, Lady Cardinal Cortayza Flowers pumped some life back into her team with a bucket. Demiyah Gatlin scored two of her 19 points to make the score 47-40.
Next up for the Lady Cardinals to chip into the Bartlett lead was senior Sylvia “Bug” Jones making a steal and racing down the court for a layup and drawing a foul. Jones finished off the three-point play with a free throw.
After a pair of Gatlin free throws, the score was 47-45. Lady Panther Lanerra Gray ended her team’s drought with a couple of foul shots.
Then Dunn made the score 49-48, hitting a triple. A free-throw each from Scott and teammate Kiya Sidney put Bartlett’s lead to 51-48.
With less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation, the Brighton Head Coach drew up a play for his senior sniper. Dunn caught the pass on a curl and released a three-pointer. The shot hit nothing but net, and the game was going to overtime, tied 51-51.
After Bartlett surged ahead 56-51 in the first overtime, Jones scored three points to get Brighton rolling. Timely shots by Dunn tied the game and sent the contest into a second overtime tied at 60-60.
But seniors Dunn and Jones fouled out during the last overtime. Meanwhile Bartlett’s Woodhouse took over the last period for 5 of 7 points.
“It’s all about the future, summer ball, next year and even college,” Real concluded. “When it’s tough, that’s when you have to dig in. I think she really dug in tonight and really got the job done for us tonight.”
Bartlett advances to the Regional site, Arlington High School, where action will take place all week for the girls and boys of Region 7-3A.