END OF THE TRAIL: Southwestern coach Kenny Garrett barks out a play to his team. Austin beat Southwestern 50-49 in overtime to win the 2A Sectional at Milan on Monday. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
END OF THE TRAIL: Southwestern coach Kenny Garrett barks out a play to his team. Austin beat Southwestern 50-49 in overtime to win the 2A Sectional at Milan on Monday. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
MILAN - Southwestern had enough magic left to force yet another overtime finish. But unlike Saturday's triple-overtime thriller against Switzerland County, the Rebels were unable to sustain enough momentum to get a win.

Debbie Hardy hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime but it was Austin that came away with the trophy, 50-49 in the Class 2A Sectional 45 championship at Milan on Monday.

It was a disappointing way to end what was an impressive two-game tournament run for the Lady Rebels. But head coach Kenny Garrett was pleased with the way his team performed.

"These kids, for the second game in a row, just played their hearts out. I'm so proud of them," Garrett said. "I've been coaching for a long time and the last two games are probably as special as I've ever been a part of. These kids just did not quit."

Southwestern (11-12) trailed by as many as 10 points in the first quarter but used a 12-0 run to seize the lead early in the second quarter. From that point on, the teams traded the lead eight times and were tied five times in a game that was destined to go down to the wire.

Hardy torched Austin for 15 points in the first half but was the recipient of a chaser throughout the second half. As a result, the Rebel offense ground to a halt and Southwestern managed only 10 points in the third and fourth quarters combined.

But the Rebel defense amped up its game as well, holding Austin to just seven points over the same span. It was that defense that gave Hardy a chance to play the hero.

Austin (12-11) took a 38-33 lead with 2:53 to play on a Kami Owens bucket. Kearstin Bruther then hit two free throws with 2:11 left to pull Southwestern within three.

The Rebels then forced turnovers on three-straight possessions, the last coming with 28 seconds left in regulation. Garrett called a timeout and Southwestern went to work.

With Cass Lawson directing traffic at the top of the key, Hardy worked hard to escape her shadow. Finally, a screen allowed Hardy to slip the chaser and pop open on the left elbow where she took a pass and drained a wide-open 3-pointer with just over a second to play that tied the game 38-38. Austin never got off another shot.

"We started running more sets for Debbie in the second half and she still played well, she had some pretty good shots," Garrett said. "But the other kids stepped up and made plays. I can think of three or four times where we worked our butts off the get a steal only to turn it right back over. Those few plays hurt us."

Austin opened the extra session with a 3-pointer by Owens and the Eagles eventually went ahead by seven on a pair of Owens free throws with 38 seconds left.

But Southwestern had a little bit of magic left. Allison Bushong put in a short jumper to cut the lead to five. After the Eagles' Holli Reynolds hit a free throw to push the margin back to six, the Rebels' Kelsi Brierly hit a runner in the lane to cut the lead to four with just nine seconds left.

Lawson then stole the Austin inbounds and was fouled. She hit both free throws and all of a sudden, the Eagle lead was down to 48-46.

Any hopes of a miracle comeback were dashed, however, after Austin's Akaya Walker hit two free throws that made it a four-point game with six seconds left. Brierly's 3-pointer as time expired set the final margin at 50-49.

"Austin beat us by 30 about three weeks ago but these girls never gave up," Garrett said. "We had a game plan and they executed it perfectly. They did everything we asked them to do."

Hardy led all scorers with 20 points but was limited to just five in the second half thanks to the chaser. The freshman Brierly finished with 13 points - a career-high - and eight rebounds. Austin Courtney had nine points and 10 rebounds.

Owens led Austin with 16 points off the bench while Reynolds and Walker scored 11 each.

Neither team shot very well from the floor. Southwestern was 17-for-51 (33.3 percent) overall and 6-of-21 (28.6 percent) on 3-pointers. Austin was 14-for-46 (30.4 percent) and 7-of-24 (29.2 percent) from behind the arc.

The big difference came at the free-throw line where Austin was 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) while Southwestern was 9-of-13 (69.2 percent).

The sectional title was the second-straight for Austin, which will now head to the regional at Paoli where the Eagles will face North Knox (17-5) in Saturday's morning semifinal.

Southwestern heads to the offseason with thoughts already on next season. The Rebels lose seniors Lawson, Courtney and Samantha Ison to graduation but return most of their core players.

"We're going to miss those seniors. They have meant so much to me as a coach and to this program," Garrett said. "We talked in the lockerroom about what we can accomplish next season. We've got some really athletic kids and they play volleyball and softball and track. I told them all I want is the month of June. Give me the month of June and we'll play 25 or 30 games and get kids used to each other and get fired up for the season.

"We've got a good group of kids and some good eighth graders coming in so I'm pretty excited for next season."

---

CLASS 2A SECTIONAL 45

at Austin

Monday's Championship

AUSTIN 50, SOUTHWESTERN 49, OT



AUSTIN 20 11 3 4 12 - 50

SOUTHWESTERN 12 16 5 5 11 - 49



AUSTIN (12-11) - Owens 16, (f)Reynolds 11, (f)Walker 11, (g)Jeffries 5, (g)Embrey 3, (g)Smith 2, Riley 2, Hollan 0.

SOUTHWESTERN (11-12) - (f)Hardy 20, Brierly 13, (f)Courtney 9, (g)Lawson 3, Bruther 2, (g)Bushong 2, (c)Rueda 0, Moore 0, Ison 0.



3-Point Goals - Austin 7 (Owens 3, Walker 2, Embrey 1, Jeffries 1), Southwestern 6 (Hardy 4, Brierly 2). Rebounds - Austin 35 (Jeffries 8), Southwestern 38 (Courtney 10). Assists - Austin 9 (Smith 3), Southwestern 10 (Lawson 4). Turnovers - Austin 21, Southwestern 22. Total Fouls - Austin 14, Southwestern 18. Free Throws - Austin 15-24, Southwestern 9-13. Fouled Out - Austin: Smith. Southwestern: Courtney, Lawson. Next Game - Austin plays North Knox in the Regional at Paoli Saturday. Southwestern's season ends.