By David Sharp
First seeded Schuyler County (11-2) held off a valiant Knox County effort and won the girls 2008 North Shelby Tournament championship with a deceiving 56-46 victory.
The Lady Eagles were within four points at the 2:52 mark of the fourth quarter. All-district guard Tahnee Poe was 11-12 at the free throw line and scored a game high 17 Lady Ram points.
Schuyler County put forth an outstanding 22 of 26 performance at the free throw line.
Knox County (6-8) has apparently been watching tapes of former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson's 40 minutes of you know where defense. Mike Anderson coaches the same system at the University of Missouri.
The Lady Eagles competed with a fire the entire 32 minutes. Knox County pressured a very seasoned, very good Schuyler County guard corps all night long. The balanced Lady Rams took advantage of one on one interior match ups with the younger Knox County front line.
The Lady Rams converted a four shot opportunity to a 12-6 lead with 3:10 showing on the first quarter clock. Every time Schuyler County threatened to run away and hide, the Lady Eagles would answer.
Knox County mixed up their defensive sets. The Lady Eagles shut down Schuyler County's inside chances with a 2-3 zone defense. Knox County tied the game at 12 when Becca Mallett hammered home an inside bucket with 2:05 remaining in the first quarter.
The Lady Eagle supporters roared when senior Caley Palmer drilled a 15 footer for a 14-12 Knox County lead with 40 seconds to play in period one. Schuyler County missed several inside shots and found themselves trailing 14-12 at then end of the first period after the Knox County 8-0 run.
Tahnee Poe took the basketball hard to the rack during a quick five point rally to a 17-14 Ram lead. Amanda Woods and Tessa Ramer responded for Knox County. Lesa Ford extended a one point lead to 22-18 with a home run ball at the 5:19 mark of the first half.
Jackie Roberts put the Lady Rams on top of a 24-18 score. Tessa Ramer fought her way inside and started a four point run with a 4:03 mark put back. Amanda Woods drained a 15 footer for a 24-22 Schuyler County edge with 3:44 remaining in the first half.
Tessa Ramer answered a four point Ram run with a three ball at the 1:37 mark of period two. Knox County was back within a field goal at 28-26. The Lady Rams scored the final four points of the first half and took a 32- 26 lead at the half.
Schuyler County got out and contested Knox County scoring chances early in the third quarter. Tahnee Poe sank a pair of free throws, capping a 12-2 Schuyler County run to a 40-28 margin with 5:29 showing on the third quarter clock.
Knox County responded with an intense full court pressure defense. Lorrie Peters and Caley Palmer scored eight unanswered points pulling Knox County within a 40-36 deficit with 2:33 to play in the third quarter.
Schuyler County broke the streak with a field goal. Amber Ausmus tossed in a Knox County basket with six seconds remaining in the third quarter, pulling the Lady Eagles back within a 42-38 deficit at the three quarter pole.
Stacey Leckbee trimmed a five point deficit back to a one possession game with a KCHS 15 footer at the six minute mark of the final quarter. Freshman Amber Ausmus stepped up and sank a critical three ball with 4:48 to play in the game. Schuyler County led 45-43.
Senior Tara Verkuilen answered with a Lady Ram home run ball for a 48-43 lead. Amber Ausmus nailed another three pointer at the 4:07 mark of the fourth quarter cutting the margin back to 48-46 in favor of Schuyler County.
The Lady Rams worked the ball around and drew Knox County fouls. Schuyler County sank their free throws. Knox County had a chance to pull within four points with 70 seconds showing on the clock but missed two free throws.
Tahnee Poe tossed in two free throws with 47 seconds to play for a 56-46 lead. Knox County was forced to go for three pointers attempting to get back in the game. The Lady Eagles dove for loose balls and played as hard as they could until the final buzzer.
The under rated Lady Rams denied Knox County their first girls' tournament championship since Knox County won their district in 1991 with a 56-46 victory. Both teams sank two three point shots on the night. The Lady Eagles scored four more field goals than Schuyler County.
The Lady Rams were able to play defense without fouling and limited Knox County to a 4-7 night at the charity stripe. Schuyler County outscored Knox County 14- 8 in the fourth quarter.
Tara Verkuilen backed up senior Tahnee Poe's 17 point night with 16 of her own. Kaitlin Stump was the third Lady Ram in double figures with 11 points. "You have to give a lot of credit to Knox County. When we got up 40-30 I thought we had a chance to put the game away," said Lady Ram coach Steve Stock.
"They picked up the intensity and cut it back to four," said Coach Stock. "We handled their pressure sometimes, and sometimes we didn't. We were able to hit free throws down the stretch and got out of there with a win."
"Knox County is pretty well balanced, but their strength is pressuring you out front and making you handle the basketball," said Stock. "We came into the game with the thought that we had to get some looks inside and try to get their guards to back off a bit."
"We did some good things with it, but credit to Knox County they get after it," related Coach Stock. "If you don't handle it for 32 minutes they will get you."
Amanda Woods and Lorrie Peters led the Lady Eagles with ten points each. Amber Ausmus and Tessa Ramer scored eight points each in a balanced team scoring effort. Caley Palmer and Stacey Leckbee added four KCHS points each.
"I'm really proud or the girls," said KCHS coach John Weaver. "I'm not really into moral victories, but our kids came out and played with a lot of heart and intensity for four quarters. They just got after it for 32 minutes. We came a long way," said Coach Weaver of the sixth seeded Lady Eagles.
"Obviously first place would be a lot better, but I can't be too disappointed in the way we played tonight. It was a team effort. It wasn't just one person here and there. Every person that played contributed. Amber Ausmus came in and hit a couple of huge shots to keep us in the fourth quarter. Those shots gave us a chance."
"A couple of turnovers here and there, a couple of loose balls here and there and it may have been a different story," said Weaver. "We will get another shot at them at their place in two or three weeks. We will be looking forward to it."