Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Hollye Keenum (24) and Mikala Malone embrace after the Lady Rattlers whipped Westminster Christian 54-40 in the regional finals and advanced to the Class 2A Final Four in Birmingham next week.
No tears of sadness for Tanner's girls
Lady Rattlers face Reeltown in Final Four on Tuesday
By Mark Edwards
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2461
HANCEVILLE — Every year, somebody always stood between Tanner High's girls basketball team and a trip to the Final Four.
Mars Hill. Cold Springs. Hatton.
Now, finally, nobody separates the Lady Rattlers and a trip down I-65 to Birmingham for a meeting of the last four Class 2A girls teams in the state.
Tanner beat Westminster Christian 54-40 in the Northwest Regional finals Friday afternoon. This marked Tanner's fourth straight regional appearance, the seventh regional appearance in 10 years and fourth trip to the finals.
"It's great to be able to walk out of here happy and not crying," said Tanner senior Hollye Keenum, the tournament's most valuable player. "I'm speechless."
Tanner (24-9), which has won 17 of its last 19, will face Reeltown on Tuesday at 9 a.m. Reeltown advanced with a 63-56 win over Shades Mountain Christian.
"We've been here seven times, and we've seen a lot of the same teams," Tanner coach Larry Greene said. "Now, it's just us."
Tanner didn't need the same theatrics that won Tuesday's thrilling double-overtime win over Mars Hill, which the Lady Rattlers didn't clinch until Jessica Urias made a steal in the closing seconds and drove for the winning layup.
Except for a brief moment when the two teams were tied at 2 in the opening minute, Tanner led the whole way.
The Lady Rattlers essentially took control for good during the third quarter. Westminster Christian had cut the Tanner lead to five at 32-27 with 6:17 to play in the period.
Then Keenum made a pair of free throws. Urias' followed with a pass to Mikala Malone for a basket. Keenum made two more free throws, while Cecily Woods made one and Whitley Mayberry sank two.
That gave Tanner a 9-0 run and a 41-27 lead with less than a minute left in the period. Westminster Christian (26-5), making its first trip to regionals since 2000, never got closer than 12 after that.
"We just played a quality opponent," Westminster Christian coach Kerry St. John said. "Tanner did what they wanted to do."
Keenum finished with 18 points and four steals. Woods had 14 points and six rebounds. Malone, who joined Keenum on the all-tournament team, had 10 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
Urias pulled down nine rebounds and had three steals.
Westminster Christian's Mandy Lowman, her team's top offensive threat, finished with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists. Grace Ballard added nine points. Both made all-tournament.
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