LEXINGTON — There certainly are no secrets when Mars Hill and Lauderdale County face off against one another. Saturday evening’s Lauderdale County Tournament championship game was the fourth time the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams in the state have faced each other this season.
And it was once again a close, grind-it-out affair, as Lauderdale County held on for a 54-49 victory over the Panthers to claim the tournament championship.
“Anytime you play somebody that many times, it makes it tough,” Lauderdale County coach Brant Llewellyn said. “It’s two good teams, and you never know whose going to come out on top, just the team that makes plays that certain night.”
Lauderdale County and Mars Hill have now split the four games they’ve played, but Mars Hill has won the two most important ones, Llewllyn said.
“They’ve beat us in the two area games when it really counted and we beat them in the two tournaments when we played them. We’re No. 1 in 3A, they’re No. 2 in 3A, now we’ve split 2-2. That will definitely make it interesting down the stretch.”
For the second game in a row, Lauderdale County got a big spark off the bench from center Makayla Liles. Liles scored 10 points in the Tigers’ 65-54 semifinal win over Lexington, and scored 11 in Saturday’s championship game.
“Two nights in a row Makayla has come in and given us a spark and really played well,” Llewellyn said. “She’s been huge for us. It’s going be big for us down the road for her to keep doing that.”
Chatara Cox and Karlee Brown led Lauderdale County with 13 points each. Most of Brown’s points came from the free throw line, as she hit seven of eight free throws in the game.
Mars Hill’s Mary Brooke Willis led all scorers with 19 points while Tatyana Rutherford scored 17 for the Panthers.
Lauderdale County led 11-5 after one quarter and held steady to that slim lead for the majority of the game.
“It was one of those games that was back and forth the whole time,” Llewellyn said. “We were able to pull away from them there in the fourth quarter and held on to it. Mars Hill is one of those teams that you can’t ever pull away from because they shoot the ball so well. It was just two good teams going at it, and I’m just happy we were able to come out of there with a win.”