If I had to distill it down to just two words, that’s how I would describe the McKenzie Lady Rebels’ epic adventure in the state basketball tournament this past week in Murfreesboro – an excursion that ultimately yielded the program’s first gold ball and statewide bragging rights for a very deserving group of young ladies.
They seemed to have a case of the jitters during the first round on Thursday against North Greene, but they still pulled out a solid 58-44 win.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it out on Friday for their 58-46 semifinal victory over their neighbors just up the road in Gleason, but, from what I’ve heard, they were more poised and more on their game as they bumped off the Lady Bulldogs.
But I was there on Saturday, and they definitely pulled it all together and put everything out there on the court as they outfought a very tough Wayne County team 46-42 for the state title.
From what I saw, the Lady Rebs hit the court that night believing they could do it – and they did.
There was a worrisome moment very late in the fourth quarter when Wayne County pulled within three on an outside shot, but as those last seconds ticked off the clock, that worry faded, swallowed up in the deafening roar of Big Red fans gone wild.
Congrats to Savannah Davis, Briley Auvenshine, and Dani Dyer for earning spots on the All-State Tournament Team. Savannah was named tournament MVP, and Dani, the team’s lone senior, capped off her high school career in style.
Fortunately for McKenzie, Savannah (a sophomore) and Briley (a junior) should be back on the court next season.
And though we didn’t know the outcome as of press time on Monday, Savannah, one of three Class 1-A Miss Basketball finalists in the state, was set to appear back at Murphy Center Monday afternoon for that awards presentation. A Miss Basketball trophy would certainly go well with a state championship.
But every member of the Lady Rebels team deserves kudos for a truly historic season that included a 22-2 regular season record, undefeated status in district competition, and an unblemished run all the way through the postseason, including district and region titles, for a record-setting final tally of 31-2.
Of course, head coach John Wilkins and assistant coach Ashley Lowe had a little something to do with all that. As with the girls playing under their leadership, these coaches can carry the accomplishments of this season with pride for the rest of their lives.
But the season’s not over yet for coach Wilkins, who also happens to serve as head coach over the Rebels, who just happen to be making their own trip to the ‘Boro later this week. There may be another example somewhere in the annals of basketball history, but I’ve never heard of anyone coaching both girls and boys teams and taking them both to state in the same year. That’s something for your grandchildren to tell their grandchildren about.
The Rebels will be facing off with Trenton-Peabody in the first round at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday.
And earlier that day at Murphy Center, the West Carroll War Eagles, who have earned a state berth for the second year in a row, will be playing Hampton at 10 a.m. in the state quarterfinals.
Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise, I’ll be there to see both of those games – and, honestly, I wouldn’t mind watching a rematch between the Rebels and War Eagles with much higher stakes.
But, for now, this moment belongs to you, the state champion Lady Rebels. Don’t be too shy about basking in the glory, and I hope this achievement boosts you all to even greater things in the future.
And, on a personal note, this old sports editor thanks you for my first-ever trip to a state championship basketball game.