MURFREESBORO — The Cheatham County girls basketball team reached the state championship game for the first time by beating Grainger 49-41 in the quarterfinals and then tournament favorite Macon County 75-51 in the semifinals at MTSU’s Murphy Center.
Cheatham County lost in the 1991 semifinals, the farthest it had previously advanced before this season.
Before the quarterfinals coach Jim Gibbs showed the team the move “The Little Engine That Could” and followed that by playing a montage of YouTube clips — the 1980 U.S. hockey team’s “Miracle on Ice”, UMBC’s historic upset of top seed Virginia in last year’s NCAA Tournament and Buster Douglas knocking out heavyweight champion Mike Tyson — to get the players motivated against Macon County.
“I think everyone likes being the underdog,” Gibbs said. “There’s less pressure to win and it’s just easier to go out there and perform.”
Grainger was hurting Cheatham County with 3-pointers, but the Lady Cubs clamped down on defense late in the game to take a lead and advance to the semifinals.
Against Macon County (the team that had knocked Cheatham County out of the tournament in the first round the previous year), the Lady Cubs got their revenge, pulling away for a 24-point victory.
Abbi Douglas scored 27 points and Alli Douglas added 22 to go along with 11 rebounds in the semifinals. Macon County made only 6-of-26 3-pointers in the game.
“I feel like these girls are an extension of my family,” Gibbs said. “My wife and I have one daughter but as far as I’m concerned, I have 16 kids. You want good things for your kids and these are my kids.”
GIRLS BOX SCORE
Cheatham (75): Abbi Douglas 27, Alli Douglas 22, Emmy Nelson 14, Eryn Nelson 6, Jorden Bumpus 3, Harper Dee 3
Macon County (51): Jaylynn Gregory 23, Keeley Carter 16, Abby Shoulders 9, McKaylee Mix 3
GIRLS BOX SCORE
Cheatham County (49): Emmy Nelson 14, Abbi Douglas 12, Jorden Bumpus 10, Alli Douglas 4, Eryn Nelson 4, Carlie Hogan 3, Jesse Bumpus 2
Grainger (41): Abbey Hodge 12, Lauren Longmire 9, Isabelle Stratton 8, Marty Tanner 8, Tori Rutherford 4