Seven is heaven
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
PHIL CAMPBELL - If someone dusts the Franklin County championship trophy and finds Alyssa Horton's fingerprints all over it, it should come as no surprise.
She certainly left her mark on the championship game.
Horton drained four three-pointers and scored a game-high 20 points on Saturday as Red Bay continued its recent domination of the county tournament with a 53-36 victory over Belgreen.
The Lady Tigers (11-5) have now won seven consecutive county championships.
"Winning the county tournament really means a lot to us," said Horton, whose hot outside shooting was Red Bay's lone source of consistent offense in an otherwise sluggish first half. "We really wanted to keep [the streak] going. It was on our minds all day. We knew we would have to play our hardest to win it."
The Lady Tigers struggled from the field in the early going, and Belgreen (9-5) led 9-8 after one quarter of play.
Red Bay opened the second quarter with seven straight points, the last three of which came on a play designed to get Horton an open look from beyond the arc.
"We had been running our regular zone offense with me at the point, but then we switched Lauren [Tucker] over to point and I dropped down into the corner," Horton said. "She made some good passes to me, and luckily I was on."
Horton's trey gave Red Bay a six-point lead, and she nailed another one moments later to make it 18-12 midway through the second quarter.
The junior guard then closed out the first half with a basket in the final seconds to give the Lady Tigers a 24-15 halftime lead.
Horton finished the first half with 11 points, including three treys.
"Alyssa hit some big shots for us in the first half," Red Bay coach Donnie Roberts said. "That gave us a big boost. We were having trouble scoring in the first half, but Belgreen had a lot to do with that. They really played well. They came out and got after us."
Belgreen came out hot in the third quarter, refusing to let the Lady Tigers run away with it.
Casey Guinn and Kala Dill nailed back-to-back three-pointers, and a basket by Amanda Hester brought the Lady Bulldogs within three at 26-23 midway through the third quarter.
"Belgreen made a run right after the half that gave them some pretty good momentum," Roberts said. "Our girls did a good job of keeping their composure. We stepped it up on the defensive end of the floor. We weren't doing that well with our press, but we did a good job in the half-court. We allowed them to penetrate too much in the first half, but we did a better job of stopping that in the second half."
After a timeout by Red Bay, Tucker buried a three-pointer to jumpstart a 17-3 run by the Lady Tigers to close the quarter that virtually put the game away.
A three-point play by Mandy Lowery made it 38-26 with 1:05 left in the third, and Horton then delivered the knockout punch with her fourth and final trey of the game to give Red Bay a 41-26 lead and all but sew up another county championship.
"We don't take any of these for granted," Roberts said. "You saw what happened tonight. Belgreen came out and really played well. I thought our girls responded well. This is a great tournament, and we're proud to be able to win it again."
Tucker finished with nine points for Red Bay. Kendra Sparks added eight, including seven in the third quarter when the Lady Tigers out-scored Belgreen 19-11.
Lowery had six points and a team-high seven rebounds. Mallory Garrison and Kalie Sparks each added four points, and Elizabeth Entrekin had two.
Guinn led Belgreen with 15 points, including two three-pointers, and four steals. Hester added 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and had five rebounds.
Dill finished with seven points, and Mary Billingham added two.
Belgreen finished the night with 23 turnovers.