After the University of Connecticut romped over St. Francis 140-52 in the first round of this year's NCAA women's basketball tournament, many thought that the Lady Huskies were too good for the sport.
They are very good. Eleven national championships since 2000, five undefeated seasons in that span, the first team to go 40-0 and certainly in a class by themselves.
But the last two years have not been fulfilled. Seventy two victories and only two defeats. Both losses have been in the national semifinals on game winning shots by Mississippi State in 2017 and this time around, from rival Notre Dame.
UConn is human after all.
Geno Auriemma has elevated UConn women's basketball in the same aspects as Alabama football, New England Patriots football, New York Yankees baseball with victory after victory, after victory.
The winning is hard earned, but at times, extremely hard to maintain when teams get into the grueling stretch of postseason play. UConn has seen that the last two years.
It proves one thing. Not the elite can be the elite from one year to the next. The Patriots didn't this past NFL season, Alabama was grateful of getting invited to the college football playoff and the Yankees failed to keep upstart Houston from its quest for postseason success.
As Friday's semifinal game, seen by over 19,000 inside Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, plus the many that viewed it on national television, UConn finally got going in the second quarter, turning a 24-11 first period deficit into a 41-34 halftime lead.
Plenty of us, including myself, thought UConn was now going to put away Notre Dame, a team shorthanded due to four players suffering ACL injuries in the season.
Down but not out, Notre Dame was able to make the plays to keep it close, regain the lead and force UConn to come from behind in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.
UConn could not stay ahead and Notre Dame executed on its final possession of OT, an 18 and a half jumper that clinched an exciting 91-89 triumph.
Consecutive 36-1 records for UConn, ousted on jump shots by point guards who were in rhythm when it was needed.
What creates a lot of conversation from this, is that UConn is not superior in the Final Four after Breanna Stewart left in 2016, with four consecutive national championships and back to back MVP seasons. I had a chance to see her perform in 2014, when she was a sophomore and UConn whipped Notre Dame 79-58 in the title game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse were on the last championship team as sophomores. Once Stewart headed to the WNBA, the two were good enough to go 72-2 in their last two seasons. But they were not great enough.
It is a similar story seen closely by yours truly. Lauderdale County won four straight AHSAA Class 3A state championships, thanks to the Wallen triplets, Emma, Ivy and Ella. Allie Craig Cruce was a sophomore the last time LCHS took home the hardware.
Lauderdale was undefeated at 34-0 in 2014 and 39-0 in 2015. They won in 2016, despite six losses in 36 games.
In the past two seasons, Lauderdale has produced 68 wins and only seven losses. But no state title for Cruce, without the triplets. Lauderdale lost in overtime March 2 to Pisgah 62-59 in the state championship.
Cruce is like Stewart, an outstanding performer and bound for the University of Alabama after graduation in May. Unfortunately, she has to endure the pain of not winning the big one when all eyes were upon her during 2017 and 2018.
Yes, it's not fair. But also, it proves that parity is coming into play for women's basketball.
Mississippi State has come from no where to be an elite, leaving the pride-pattern Tennessee Lady Vols well behind.
Notre Dame defied the odds, having to lean on regulars to play the entire game and go into the bench with one substitution.
Geno is like Nick Saban and Bill Belichick in being very outstanding coaches. But Geno now has to face the fact that two losses in two years leaves plenty of scars from the efforts of trying to stay on top after dominating the NCAA for four consecutive seasons (2013-16).
UConn got criticized for its lopsided 1st round win over St. Francis, scoring a record 94 points by halftime. They even tore apart last year's national champion, South Carolina in a 94-65 final in the regional championship in Albany, New York.
To me, UConn was on a mission to get back to the top. But the team did not rise when it was necessary and Notre Dame played on emotion and showed poise when the game went into crunch time.
Losing when not expected to is extremely painful. That is something Geno and the entire club will have to fight through for an undisclosed period of time.
Perhaps Geno will take this into consideration. Don't be so superior in the early rounds of next year's NCAA Tournament. Let someone else come under the microscope.
That will probably not be a part of equasion.
Photo courtesy of ESPN.com
Prior to spring break, two track meets were held at Fairview's Dafford Smith Stadium and Cold Springs' Cranford Stricklin Stadium.
Here are the results:
Fairview Spring Meet # 2 March 22:
Vinemont Lady Eagles claimed the title with 151.50 points, while Addison took second at 107, Good Hope 105.50, Fairview 88, Boaz 83 and Lindsay Lane Christian 13.
Brilee Wasilewski set the success tone for Vinemont, winning the 100-meter at 13.92 and the 200-meter at 29.64.
Kendall Harbison had victory in the 1,600-meter with a time of 6:37.69 and was second in the 800-meter at 3:07.80. The 4X100 relay team of Wasilewski, Bailey Preiss, Emily Cheatwood and Abby Young claimed top honors with a time of 54.11.
Kanasta Daniel was the winner in the javelin at 98-02, second in the discus at 65-01.
Fairview Lady Aggies dominated field events with Abby Schnittker winning the long jump (14-08), triple jump (31-00) and high jump (4-06). Schnittker was second in the 100 hurdles with a time of 18.43.
Lorin Zehr came out on top in the shot put (32-01.50), discus (90-02).
Good Hope got a good outing in its 4X100 relay as Emma Brock, Kara Tingle, Bella Davis and Savanna Derrick had the second fastest time behind Vinemont at 56.59. Kristen Hart gained 3rd place in the javelin at 72-01.
Fairview breezed to championship honors, scoring 218.50 points, finishing 87 points ahead of runner-up Addison at 131.50. Vinemont grabbed third at 114.50, Boaz was next with 97, Good Hope 61.50 and Lindsay Lane Christian 14.50.
First place honors were achieved by Issac Gandy in the 200-meter (26.23), Daniel Cook in the 800-meter (2:28.32), Tyvn Ellis in the 110 hurdles (19.00), Quinton Chambers in the 300 hurdles (45.95), Jonathan Semadeni, Cook, Chambers and Peyton Bailey in the 4X800 relay (9:44.94), Luke Yarbrough in the high jump (5-04), Jordan Earwood in the long jump
(17-06), Dow Nichols in the triple jump (37-09), Dylan Garner in the discus (126-04), Garner in the javelin (136-04).
Ethan Burser of Vinemont captured the 400-meter at 56.83, with Good Hope's John Standridge winning the 3,200-meter with a time of 12:09.75. Good Hope got a win in the pole vault as Tommy Fetters had a leap of 11-06, with teammate Tucker Putman winning the shot put at 37-01.
Cold Springs Invite March 23:
Huntsville area teams prevailed in the annual event held on the Cold Springs campus. Whitesburg Christian was the girls winner with 140 points, Grissom finished second at 124, Cold Springs claimed third place with 116, Hazel Green 86.50, St. John Paul Catholic 77, Vinemont 42, Holly Pond 20, Hanceville 7, Decatur Heritage 6.
Hazel Green scored 206 points in the varsity competition, winning it by 46 points over Grissom (160). Cold Springs finished 3rd with 79, followed by Hanceville 55, Whitesburg Christian 44, St. John Paul Catholic 38, Vinemont 30, Holly Pond 19.
Sportspage file photos by Johnny Thornton
AHSAA Spring sports results - Thursday:
BB: Cullman 11, Northridge 4
BB: Winfield 6, West Point 5 (10)
BB: Fairview 20, Brewer 2
BB: Hanceville 14, Carbon Hill 1
BB: Carbon Hill 10, Hanceville 5
BB: Oakman 6, Vinemont 4
BB: Holly Pond 12, Appalachian 2
SB: Hartselle 10, Cullman 0
SB: Oakman 20, Vinemont 4
SB: Cold Springs 4, Addison 1
SB: Priceville 13, Good Hope 3
SB: Hayden 12, Fairview 2
SB: Carbon Hill 11, Hanceville 1
SC: Cullman 3, Albertville 2
SC: West Point 9, Holly Pond 0 (G)
SC: West Point 11, Holly Pond 1
Sportspage 2018 All-Performance varsity team
Based on performance in front of Sportspage during 2017-18 season:
1. Griffin Morris - Holly Pond
2. Brendan Flanigan - Hanceville
3. Rylan Jones - West Point
4. Nic Williams - Cullman
4. Luke Yarbrough - Fairview
1. Christian Peterson - St. Bernard
2. Colby Sullins - West Point
3. Issac McDonald - Good Hope
4. Katch Johnson - Vinemont
1. Bryson Fletcher - Fairview
2. Kyler Chaney - Holly Pond
3. Damion Johnson - Hanceville
4. Austin Dubberly - West Point
1. RJ Evans - Hanceville
2. Elijah Price - St. Bernard
3. Zane Mandley - Cullman
4. McKinley Garrrett - Holly Pond
1. Hunter McClendon - Cold Springs
2. Dylan Finch - Cullman
3. Josh Stanley - Hanceville
1. Raiden Morgan - Hanceville
2. Devyn Tankersley - Holly Pond
3. Drew Morton - Cullman
4. Drew Maddox - Good Hope
5. Matt Dixon - Good Hope
1. Zeke McDonald - Hanceville (Jr)
2. John Christian Rose - St. Bernard (So)
3. Micah Calvert - Cold Springs (8th)
4. Caleb Guthrey - St. Bernard (So)
Cole Maddox - Good Hope
Kolton Sapp - West Point
Truman Boyd - Fairview
Landon Freeman - Good Hope
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Griffin Morris of Holly Pond - Morris was one of the top offensive performers all season in finding numerous ways of scoring. His ability to drive through defenses, plus a steady stroke from three-point range and outstanding accuracy at the foul line. Morris shot better than 90 percent from the stripe and was tough to defend for being left handed. Morris earned the Joe Shults Award during the Cullman County Tournament.
Holly Pond posted 60 wins in 66 games while Morris was on the varsity for the past two seasons.
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Daniel Wakefield of Hanceville - A total of 19 wins out of 28 games for a victory percentage of .678 was accomplished by the Bulldogs this season.
Hanceville won its Thanksgiving Tournament, celebrating its 35th anniversary. The Bulldogs went into Christmas at 8-4, experienced a slump of four losses between January 5 through the 29th.
The slump was corrected with six consecutive wins in February, including the 3A, Area 12 championship, a sub-regional victory, plus the defeat of No. 5 Holly Pond in the semifinals of the Northwest Regional. The Bulldogs won their last five games they played at Lane Horton Gym with their only road games in February going a mile up the road to Tom Drake Coliseum at Wallace State Community College.
Photo 1: Holly Pond's Griffin Morris (Player of the year) (Photo by Cullman Co Athletics)
Photo 2: Daniel Wakefield of Hanceville (Coach of the year)
Photo 3: Rylan Jones of West Point in county tournament semifinal game Jan. 26.
Photo 4: Elijah Price of St. Bernard vs. Cold Springs Jan. 29
Photo 5: RJ Evans of Hanceville vs. Vinemont Feb. 6.
Photo 6: Brendan Flanigan of Hanceville vs. Holly Pond in NW Regional Feb. 17.
Photo 7: County all-tournament team Jan. 27.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
Sportspage's Girls All-Performance basketball team:
Selected based on season performances in front of Sportspage.
1. Taylor Yeager - Fairview
2. Kelly Pickett - Hanceville
3. Toni West - Cold Springs
4. A.K. Eastman - Cullman
1. Miriam Oldacre - West Point
2. Camryn Crider - Cold Springs
3. Payton Golden - Fairview
4. Kierra Merriweather - Hanceville
1. Lexi Shadix - West Point
2. McKinna Yearwood - Fairview
3. Leyton Seal - Good Hope
4. Cassidy Campbell - Hanceville
1. Anna Evans - Cullman
2. Olivia Ball - West Point
3. Emma Tafazoli - St. Bernard
4. Aubrey Negron - Cold Springs
1. Elizabeth Hill - Cold Springs
2. Abbi Taylor - Fairview
3. Kate Kent - Good Hope
4. Mackenzie Carter - West Point
4. Karmen Johnson - Hanceville
1. Valentina Klocker - Fairview
2. Molly Pendley - West Point
3. Kinley Campbell - Cold Springs
4. Bailey Swann - Good Hope
PLAYERS ON THE RISE:
1. Hannah Hoffman - Cullman (Fr)
2. Shae Sellers - Cold Springs (Fr)
3. Makenna Folds - Holly Pond (Fr)
4. Madysen Hacker - Vinemont (Fr)
Erika Woodall - Good Hope
Abby Schnittker - Fairview
Kolby Holcombe - Holly Pond
Ashley Duke - St. Bernard
Micah Oldacre - West Point
Sadie Stanley - Vinemont
Anna Grace Murphy - Cullman
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Taylor Yeager of Fairview - The Bill Shelton Award winner from the Cullman County Tournament, Yeager has been all-county since the 8th grade. Yeager is a tremendous floor leader, contributing to Fairview winning back to back county, area and sub-regional championships.
Fairview was 51-15 in Yeager's final two years.
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Christina Watson of Hanceville - Lady Bulldogs enjoyed their best season under Watson in four years she has been at her alma mater.
Hanceville was 19-10, regular season champs in 3A, Area 10 (6-0), Area 10 tournament runner-up, sub-regional qualifier.
Lady Bulldogs were 11-4 from January to end of the season, were 9-4 at Lane Horton Gymnasium, 6-game winning streak from January 5-24. Were 3-2 in invitational tournaments, 2-2 in Encore Thanksgiving Classic in Hartselle and 1-1 in Susan Moore Christmas Tournament.
Huge win was 51-48 upset of No. 4 Locust Fork in regular season game January 30 at Hanceville.
#1: Taylor Yeager of Fairview (POY) vs. Brewer Feb. 1.
#2: Sportspage coach of the year Christina Watson of Hanceville vs. Russellville Nov. 21
#3: West Point's Miriam Oldacre & team vs. Phil Campbell Nov. 22.
#4: Good Hope's Kate Kent (14), Cold Springs' Camryn Crider Nov. 30.
#5: Holly Pond offense attacks West Point defense Nov. 27.
#6: Cold Springs Elizabeth Hill (3), West Point's Lexi Shadix at county tourney Jan. 25.
#7: County all-tournament team Jan. 27
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
NASHVILLE, Tennessee - A two-hour trip into Music City for a sporting event is mere child's play for yours truly.
A plan was put into place and executed in getting to attend the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament for a couple of days inside Bridgestone Arena. This was the first time I had visited the facility since the NCAA Women's Final Four in 2014 when Connecticut defeated Notre Dame in a battle of undefeated rivals for the grand prize in the sport.
I got what I wanted out of this trip. A chance to see to me, the best women's conference in the country, regardless of if they claim the national title for the second straight year.
The SEC works hard and having a pretty good league for women's hoops and with seven teams in the AP Top 25, plus six going from 11-5 to 12-4 in conference play, it speaks very strong on the rise of the conference from the top to the middle and competitive from the bottom teir.
South Carolina was able to put together three good games in a row, out shoot Mississippi State in the finals and stop State's undefeated string at 32 games.
South Carolina is the defending national champion and will be until someone knocks the Lady Gamecocks off in March Madness.
What proved to be enjoyment from my analysis and also being a fan, was to see how Mississippi State has continued to move forward after the incredible run they had last year to get to the championship, putting an end to U'Conn's domination of 111 consecutive victories.
State proved to be a worthy group of personnel in defeating pesky Kentucky and a solid Texas A&M unit to reach the finals once again with South Carolina the roadblock in the way of trying to add a tournament title to a regular season championship.
This will be a learning lesson for MSU. State will regroup when the tournament begins the week after. They are a mature group with Morgan William, Victoria Vivians, Blaie Schaffer, Roshunda Johnson and Teaira McGowan.
All they have to do from now on, is shoot well from all phases of the floor. A bad second quarter with South Carolina was the difference in being 33-0, not 32-1.
A'ja Wilson showed how good she still is for South Carolina, by not starting any of the games they played in Nashville. Wilson reportedly has vertigo. Coming off the bench vs. Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi State played as an inspiration for her, in which she could not be denied of playing close to excellence offensively and defensively.
Wilson has good support from her teammates with Carolina going through a strong schedule that has them battled tested to try and repeat as national champions. Carolina lost to Notre Dame and U'Conn in the regular season and would love the opportunity to avenge those defeats in the postseason.
Flash was very impressed with Texas A&M's backcourt of freshman Chennedy Carter and junior Danni Williams. They compliment one another, especially with Carter the SEC Freshman of the year and second leading scorer in the conference.
But Carter being a freshman got exposed in her letting her emotions get the best of her in the semifinal with Mississippi State that coach Gary Blair pulled her in trying to calm her down. Carter needs to listen a little more, instead of believing she can handle all situations without advice.
Both are lefties, which makes them hard to defend, as they can deliver from long distance and take the ball to the goal too.
A team that has a tremendous fan base is Tennessee. Big Orange stood out for two days the Lady Vols played in Nashville.
Tennessee has gone from a national contender to the middle of the pack in the SEC. Someone asked me is Holly Warlick's job on the line. No, UT is 24-7 and should reach at least the Sweet 16, possibly the Elite 8. But they have to get consistency between the guards and the frontline.
Mercedes Russell and Jamie Nared are as fine of frontline performers in the history of Tennessee hoops. But this team missed an incredible 63 shots in the quarterfinal round to South Carolina and lost by only 11 points.
Their starting guards are all freshmen. It depends on how they adjust from game to game for Tennessee to be successful and go deep into the tournament.
The rise of Missouri, Georgia and LSU of challenging for positioning in the standings, gives a good indication of parity. All three were 11-5 in league play and well respected by opponents across the country.
Missouri finally got a victory in the tournament since joining the SEC in 2012. At 24-7 with a solid player in guard Sophie Cunningham, Mizzou has come up the ladder in the conference and wanting to reach higher ground.
Georgia was a preseason pick of 8th in the conference, coming out at No. 3 in reality.
LSU was a force all season and wants to prove their squad is not a fluke in meeting good squads outside the SEC in postseason play.
Kentucky, Alabama and Auburn showed a competitive attitude, despite not having overall success in the SEC and overall records around .500.
Kentucky features guard Maci Morris that is consistent, especially on offense. Alabama will have to replace six seniors who graduate and will miss the scoring punch of guards Hannah Cook and Ashley Williams.
Auburn is strong in guard play with Janiah McKay and Daisa Alexander. The Lady Tigers lack in a true consistent scorer up front and will have to find someone to fill the void, due to graduation of Jessica Jones and Jazmine Jones.
Ole Miss has already made a change from the weekend when the Lady Rebels fired coach Matt Insell after six years.
Florida, Arkansas and Vanderbilt are in transitions too with Vanderbilt hoping for more wins next season or Stephanie White will be out after just three years, following great credibility she had coaching in the WNBA.
Cameron Newbauer at Florida and Mike Neighbors at Arkansas will go into their second season next year. Patience will be considered, but to stay on the sidelines in this very talented league, you better win or your time in the SEC won't last long.
Now that we into March Madness, it will be interesting to see how the SEC pans out. I was blessed to see it for a couple of days with the drive from Cullman to Nashville so routine for, especially with a sporting event on the other side of it.
Photos from the SEC Women's Tournament by Johnny Thornton
Photo 1: A'ja Wilson (22), Alexis Jennings of South Carolina speak with Nell Fortner and Andy Landers of SEC Network after win over Tennessee.
Photo 2: Tennessee's Jamie Nared shooting FTs vs. Auburn.
Photo 3: Kentucky's Matt Mitchell (L) coaching against Vic Schaffer of Mississippi State.
Photo 4: Texas A&M freshman guard Chennedy Carter (3) vs. LSU's defense.
Photo 5: Missouri G Sophie Cunningham trying to get open in game with Ole Miss.
SEC Women's Basketball Tournament
At Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN:
#1 Mississippi State 81, #9 Kentucky 58
#5 Texas A&M 75, #4 LSU 69
#2 South Carolina 73, #7 Tennessee 62
#3 Georgia 55, #6 Missouri 41
FLASH NOTES: Quarterfinal play began with Mississippi State looking sharp as ever after clinching the SEC regular season title last weekend, entering the tournament at 30-0 and No. 2 in the country.
Down 23-22 after the first, State took over controlling the game, with a 23-9 run in the second and held a 45-32 advantage at the half.
State backcourt players, Roshunda Johnson and Blair Schaffer, combined for 35 points on 10 of 19 shooting. Schaffer ripped the cords for five of seven treys and had 15 while Johnson put in a game high 20 points to keep State undefeated.
A see-saw game took place in the late afternoon as No. 4 seed LSU had No. 5 Texas A&M down by nine in the second quarter and was up 39-34 at the half.
But Texas A&M rode the shoulders of freshman player of the year Chennedy Carter. Carter guided the Lady Aggies to a comeback win, tossing in 27 and was 12 of 12 from the free throw line.
Backcourt mate Danni Williams added 15 points, shooting six of 12 from the floor. A&M had a good accuracy at the line, connecting on 20 of 24 and protecting the lead late in the game when they got the ball into the hands of Carter. A&M is now 24-4, with LSU falling to 19-9.
Plenty of orange was the drawing card for the first game in the evening session with Tennessee trying to knock off South Carolina for the third time on the season.
Tennessee, coming off a 64-61 win at the buzzer on Thursday against Auburn, could never find its shooting eye. The Lady Vols were 23 of 86 for the game, missing numerous field goals from close range. They only managed to score three times from downtown in 11 tries.
South Carolina flexed its muscles behind last year's conference MVP Aja Wilson. Wilson, who didn't start, exploded for 24 points on nine of 12 shooting and six of six at the line. She had support in the frontline by junior Alexis Jennings, who netted 19 on seven of 11 field goals and added five of five from the stripe.
Carolina's duo on the frontline was much better than Tennessee's twosome of Jamie Nared and Mercedes Russell. The duo combined for 27 points and only hit 10 of 34 attempts between them.
Tennessee was on the heels of Carolina, down 48-43 when the fourth started. Carolina ran off 13 straight points and put the game out of reach for the Vols and their faithful fans.
Carolina is now 24-6 with Tennessee at 24-7, waiting for the announcement of where they will be playing when the NCAA Tournament is announced the following week.
Missouri got the lead right before the half ended when All-SEC guard Sophie Cunningham landed a three to put the Lady Tigers in front of Georgia 23-20.
But Georgia turned it around by a 20-9 run in the third quarter to take over the lead at 40-32 and never allowed Missouri a chance to get closer.
Missouri was coming off its first ever SEC tournament victory on Thursday, defeating Ole Miss 59-50. The Lady Tigers will go to the postseason a talented team at 24-7, but Georgia lives to play another day. The No. 3 seed Lady Bulldogs will move into the semis with a 25-5 record and South Carolina the next team standing in their way.
Georgia outscored Missouri 35-18 in the final half, allowing the Lady Tigers nine points per the final two quarters.
#1 Mississippi State vs. #5 Texas A&M 4:00 (SF#1)
#2 South Carolina vs. #3 Georgia 6:30 (SF#2)
Photo 1: Mississippi State PG Morgan William (2) handling ball vs. Kentucky.
Photo 2: Texas A&M guard Chennedy Carter brings ball up the floor vs. LSU.
Photo 3: South Carolina PG Tyasha Harris deals with a Tennessee trap.
Photo 4: Missouri's Jordan Frericks looks to shoot against the Georgia defense.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
SEC Women's Basketball 2nd round
At Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN:
#9 Kentucky 71, #8 Alabama 64
#5 Texas A&M 82, #13 Arkansas 52
#7 Tennessee 64, #10 Auburn 61
#6 Missouri 58, #14 Ole Miss 40
FLASH NOTES: Alabama could not maintain a lead as Hannah Cook shot four of nine from three-point range and finished with 21 points.
The Crimson Tide led by 18-8 after the first and 25-23 at the half, getting the lead to 46-38 in the third before the collapse began.
Maci Morris did better than Cook at three-point shooting, going five of eight and tossed in 25 points to send Kentucky (15-16) into the quarterfinals with No. 1 seed Mississippi State Friday afternoon.
Alabama faltered down the stretch at the foul line, hitting only three of its last nine attempts. That gave Kentucky a chance to create breathing room and win the hard fought contest by seven.
Alabama is 17-13 and looking at best a chance to continue postseason play with the women's NIT.
Texas A&M drilled Arkansas behind a deadly guard combo as Danni Williams and freshman Chennidi Carter combined for 41 points to give them a chance at facing LSU in the quarters. Williams scored 22 while Carter light it up by firing in 19 for the Lady Aggies (23-8).
Tennessee had the best support of anybody, with plenty of orange inside Bridgestone Arena. The Lady Vols would need it to turn back a very determined Auburn team that took them to the wire.
A layup from Daisa Alexander for Auburn tied the score at 61-61 with 0:11 left in the contest. The Lady Tigers went down 55-49 in the fourth and found a way to stay close and get a big basket when it was in crunch time.
But Tennessee had the game winner. Freshman guard Reinna Davis banked in a three from the left wing with less than a second remaining. Davis was two for two in three-point shots and concluded the 2nd round affair with 16 points. Jamie Nared led the Lady Vols (24-6) with 17 points.
Auburn guard Janiah McKay produced 24 points on 10 of 20 shooting with Alexander compiling 16 in a hard fought loss to the No. 7 seed Lady Vols.
McKay landed a three from half court as time expired to send Auburn to the locker room with a 38-35 halftime lead.
In the finale, Ole Miss kept it tight with Missouri, trailing 28-26 at the half before the No. 6 seed Lady Tigers got control of the game in the second half, going on a 13-4 run in the third to extend the lead to 41-30.
Ole Miss had one regular season SEC win entering the tournament. They knocked off 11th seed Florida 48-43 in the opening round Wednesday afternoon. But Missouri was ready for the upset minded Lady Rebels in improving to 24-6.
#9 Kentucky vs. #1 Mississippi State 12:00
#5 Texas A&M vs. #4 LSU 2:30
#7 Tennessee vs. #2 South Carolina 6:00
#6 Missouri vs, #3 Georgia 8:30
FLASH NOTES: All four games in the quarterfinals has certain plots to make it a very interesting day for SEC basketball on the first Friday in March.
The Tennessee-South Carolina will be a drawing card with a huge gathering of Volunteer fans, hoping they can help their team put together an upset of defending conference champion South Carolina in the first game of the evening session.
Mississippi State comes to Bridgestone Arena 30-0 and 2nd in the country behind Connecticut. Texas A&M and LSU is a toss-up match while Georgia surprised many with a third place finish in the conference regular season when many thought they would be in the middle of the league standings.
Photo 1: Alabama guard Jordan Lewis looking to move the ball vs. Kentucky.
Photo 2: Texas A&M guard Danni Williams runs a play while coach Gary Blair calls it from the background vs. Arkansas.
Photo 3: Auburn guard Janiah McKay looking over the Tennessee defense.
Photo 4: Missouri's Sophie Cunningham (3) and Cierra Porter (21) trying to defend against Ole Miss' Kate Rodgers Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton