Viola didn't win the Class 1A Region 2 Tournament in Bay, but the Lady Longhorns still won their first opportunity to compete in the state tournament since the girls started playing five-on-five basketball.
Although they lost 47-41 to Hillcrest on Feb. 27, the Lady Horns regrouped and handed the hometown team from Bay a 54-32 loss to capture third place and a trip to Greers Ferry Westside. Viola was slated to meet Kirby in the first round of the 1A State Tournament.
"We set it as a goal. It's on our lockerroom wall," said Lady Longhorn Head Coach Jason Hughes. "We have a poster with all our goals and we had five other goals, but the number one goal was to go to the state tournament."
Viola made its move early and never relinquished the lead.
Chasidy Hutson scored 11 of 13 of her team's first quarter points. Leslie Barker scored the other two.
Bay didn't score for the first five minutes, but ended up with seven.
"We were going to try to trap them, speed them up a little bit early on to get some turnovers," said Hutson. "I thought we shot it really well. I thought we ran our offense really well. Really controlled the tempo of the game, which is what we were hoping to do."
Six players scored for Bay in the second quarter to trim the Lady Longhorn lead to 22-19 at halftime.
Viola's defense limited Bay to three points from free throws in the third.
Heather Simmons' trey to close the period gave Viola a 31-22 lead.
Hutson scored seven of her 20 game-leading points and the team shot 11-of-18 from the charity stripe in the fourth to close out the win.
"They don't sub a whole lot and I know we don't sub just a whole lot either. It seemed like maybe their legs kind of wore out after the third quarter," said Hughes. "That's something we were trying to do with tempo and the press and the pressure."
Brianna Doyle's nine points jump-started Hillcrest to an 11-2 run, but three quick fouls forced her to sit for the rest of the half.
A trey by Lady Longhorn Elisabeth Collins helped cut the score to 13-7 after one.
With Doyle on the bench, Viola made some headway. Collins, Huston and Taylor Griggs put in nine points to outscore put in nine points to outscore the Lady Eagles' Natalie Johnson, who had all seven of Hillcrest's points. Viola went into the half down 20-16.
"Just because their best scorer (Doyle) goes out of the game that doesn't help us score on the other end," explained Hughes. "We didn't take advantage of that opportunity like we should have. I think the other girls tried to pick up the slack when she went out."
Barker had 10 points for the Lady Longhorns.
There were four lead changes as Doyle returned to the floor and Viola's Barker started the third with two 3-pointers.
Kristen Montgomery's two free throws tied the game at 28-all.
The Lady Longhorns were able to match Hillcrest's five points at the top of the fourth, but then their shooters went cold not scoring again until the 1:16 mark when Barker hit a bucket.
The Lady Eagles went 10-11 from the free throw line in the fourth period.
"We didn't get enough stops. We'd get it cut down to two or three, or even had the lead at one point by one, and they'd come down and hit a big 3," said Hughes. "If we'd have just got one stop and maybe got a score, we could swing the momentum."
Barker led Viola with 13 points followed by Hutson with 11.
Doyle and Johnson had 18 apiece for the Lady Eagles.
In the opening round Feb. 25, the Lady Longhorns used a big push late in the third period to dispatch the Crowley's Ridge Academy Lady Falcons 41-23.
Viola was up 18-11 at the half and the Lady Longhorns extended this to 22-11 early in the third.
But the Lady Falcons responded with an 11-2 run to pull within two, 24-22, with 1:27 left in the third.
That's when Viola turned on the jets and pulled away.
Barker (12 points) hit a trey, Hutson (10 points) added an old-fashioned 3-point play and Johnston slammed the door on the third with a 3-ball, wrapping up a 9-zip run to give Viola a 33-22 lead after three.
But the Lady Horns were not done.
Viola allowed CRA just a single point in the final period and the Lady Longhorns turned a close game into a 41-23 blowout victory.
Griggs logged eight points for the Lady Horns, while Collins ended the game with four points for Viola.
Michaela Thompson added two, with Alex Duncan and Montgomery finishing with one point apiece.