Rebelettes capture Overall title
The Leake Academy Rebelettes captured their sixth Overall State Championship in school history as they defeated Hartfield Academy 39-36 Tuesday night in a game that was in doubt until the final buzzer.
"This was an incredibly special victory,” said Rebelettes Coach Amanda Hatch. “And the way we did it, playing down to the final buzzer. It shows the mental toughness of this group and how badly they wanted it.
“This (winning the Overall) is all the girls have talked about since last year when we exited the state tournament in the first round. I have never seen a group work so hard outside of practice on their game so they would be ready for a game like this. It was awesome.”
This is the fourth time the Rebelettes have defeated Hartfield this season. It was just last week they had defeated the Lady Hawks in the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools Class 4A girls championship by the score of 82-45.
But this was a different game. For one thing, the Overall tournament was played at Hartfield and the Lady Hawks had home-court advantage.
And, it wasn’t Leake Academy’s best shooting game of the season. The Rebelettes were 12-of-49 (24%) from two-point range and 7-of-32 (22%) from three-point range.
“We never got frustrated though we didn’t shoot very well,” Hatch said. “Hartfield did a great job of extending their zone and affecting our shooters, We didn’t get any good looks. We did what we had to do the entire game.
“I always preach about playing defense. If you guard and play defense, you are going to have a chance to win every game, no matter what is happening on offense. We covered well and we got some big rebounds.”
Hartfield took the early edge, going up by seven points – 12-5 – with 2:11 left in the first quarter. Leake Academy battled back. Emmi Harkins hit a three-point shot with seconds left in the period and Leake Academy trailed 13-11 at the break.
The second quarter was tighter with the Rebelettes outscoring Hartfield 4-2. The score was tied a 15-15 at the half.
Twice during the third quarter, the Rebelettes tried to pull away but Hartfield would come back. Leake Academy led 30-24 at the end of the third quarter.
The Rebelettes held the ball for three minutes of the fourth quarter. Leake Academy led 34-27 with 1:49 left.
Hartfield cut it to one - 34-33 – 51 seconds left on a field goal and a free throw. The Rebelettes picked up two free throws to make it 36-33 with 47 seconds left. Then Hartfield sank a three-point shot to tie the game at 36-36 with 33 seconds left.
“We lost the shooter on that play,” Hatch said. “Then the post player stepped out, scored three and tied it up.
“I said that was OK. I didn’t want everybody to panic. We were fine. It was a tie game and we had time. It was our ball,
We protected the ball. We were fouled.”
Harkins sank a free throw with 22 seconds left and Leake Academy led 37-36.
Leake Academy went down and defended. There were a couple of tie-balls and the Rebelettes gained possession. Hartfield was forced to foul and Morgan Freeny sank two free throws to put the Rebelettes up by three. The Rebelettes held on for the victory.
“We went down and defended,” Hatch said. “We got the ball and they had to foul us. Then we made two free throws and that was huge.
“We did what we had to do at every moment, whether it was make a free throw, get a rebound or get to the rim and score. Just getting the stop, protecting the basketball and hitting those free throws was an incredible series of events,” Hatch said. “She really took over. When we needed a basket, she got it. Credit Hartfield. They guarded (Miriam) Prince. She did the intangibles like guarding well, handling the ball and distributing it well. But they were all over her. It is a lot of fun to win it when it goes down to the buzzer; a lot more special. More exciting.”
The Rebelettes finished the season with a 37-2 record. The last time Leake Academy won the Overall was in 2009.
It was Hatch’s first Overall championship as the head coach but she also won one as a player.
“In 1999, we won it my junior year,” Hatch said. “We finished 46-0 that year.”