Demarco Moore, Sports Writer
FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. — Four is the magic number for Coffee County Central to clinch the No. 1 seed in the upcoming District 8-AAA tournament.
The race for the district’s top seed has, at the moment, turned into a two-team race between the Lady Raiders and Shelbyville.
Coffee County is well aware of where it falls in the standings, and its play recently has reflected the scenario staring the team in the face.
“We’re four games away from getting a [regular season] district championship,” junior Abby Morgan said on Thunder Radio after Coffee County crushed district rival Lincoln County 55-17 on Tuesday night in Fayetteville.
“We control our destiny,” added Coffee County head coach Joe Pat Cope.
“If we win these next four games, we’re your 2018 [regular season] district champions. We just gotta’ keep looking forward one game at a time and try to accomplish that.”
Coffee County (20-2 overall; 7-1 District 8-AAA), which also broke the 20-win mark for the second-consecutive season, kept pace with Shelbyville in the loss column with the win.
Tuesday’s win was also the fourth-straight for Coffee County, with the margin of victory in each game being 29, 38, 42 and 38 points.
The Lady Raiders are a full game-and-a-half behind the district-leading Eaglettes, who improved to 9-1 in district play (14-9 overall) with a 57-34 win over Columbia Tuesday night.
Shelbyville owns the tiebreaker over Coffee County after a 53-50 win over the Lady Raiders at the buzzer on Jan. 15 in Shelbyville.
If Coffee County beats Tullahoma this Friday in the last of what was originally a 7-game road trip (Jan. 12 at Franklin County was rescheduled to Feb. 10), as well as beating Franklin County on Feb. 6 in Manchester, then next Friday’s (Feb. 9) senior night rematch against the Eaglettes will decide the district’s No. 1 seed in the tournament.
“Didn’t know what to expect [from] a very young team this year after losing three starters,” explained Cope.
“This team has really come together on and off the court and played very unselfish basketball.”
The Lady Raiders shut down Lincoln County after the Lady Falcons were able to come out and control the tempo of the game in the first quarter.
Coffee County led 8-6, but opened the second quarter on a 9-0 run and pushed its lead to 22-8 at halftime.
Morgan outscored the entire Lincoln County team with 13 points in the first half.
The Lady Falcons managed just four points combined in the second and third quarters, and the Lady Raiders forced a running clock after outscoring Lincoln County 35-9 in the second half.
“We [switched] to a 3-2 [defense], and they really didn’t know how to attack us,” said Morgan, who finished with a team-high 20 points for Coffee County.
Freshman Amelia-Kate Richardson led Lincoln County with six points.
Lincoln County 36, Red Raiders 35
A pair of Kyle Clem free throws with 58 seconds left helped bring Tuesday’s Lincoln County-Coffee County boys’ game to a disappointing end for the Red Raiders.
The Falcons held on for a 36-35 win, handing Coffee County its third-straight district loss after starting the season 5-0.
The Red Raiders (13-7 overall; 5-3 District 8-AAA) have fallen back into third place in the district standings.
Clem led all scorers with 15 points, the final two coming after Coffee County’s Darius Rozier was assessed a technical foul late in the fourth quarter. It was the 12th lead change in a game where neither team led by more than four points.
Both teams struggled offensively, but the Red Raiders managed to carry a 19-18 lead into halftime, as well as taking a 29-27 lead into the fourth quarter.
Devin Gifford drained a go-ahead 3-pointer that put Lincoln County up 34-33 with 4:26 remaining.
Rozier responded with a basket that gave Coffee County a 35-34 lead with 2:20 left. It would also be the final field goal for either team, as the game would come down to free-throw makes.
Lincoln County went 2-of-3 in the fourth quarter, while the Red Raiders finished 0-for-5 and 2-of-10 for the game.
After Clem’s free-throw attempts put the Falcons, Coffee County had one final possession to attempt a potential game-winning shot, facing a one-point deficit with seven seconds left. But the shot never happened, as the Red Raiders turned the ball over to effectively end the game.
Rozier led Coffee County with 12 points.
(Figures after player’s last name denote field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted and total points.)
Lady Raiders (55)
Abby Morgan 5-6 4-4 20, Jacey Vaughn 1-1 3-4 15, Bella Vinson 2-3 6-7 10, Ashley Starks 1-2 0-0 5, Morgan Jones 0-1 0-0 3, Jaya Arnold 0-0 1-2 1
Team totals: 9-15 (Field goals), 16-20 (Free throws)
3-point goals: 7-19 (Jacey Vaughn 3-4, Abby Morgan 2-3, Ashley Starks 1-2, Morgan 1-2, Chloe Spry 0-1, Jenna Garretson 0-1, Alliyah Williams 0-1, Ellie Graham 0-5)
Red Raiders (35)
Darius Rozier 4-7 1-5 12, Grey Riddle 4-6 0-0 8, Garrett Booth 3-6 0-2 6, A.J. Rollman 2-2 0-1 4, Harley Hinshaw 1-5 1-2 3, De’Aaron Rozier 1-4 0-1 2
Team totals: 15-29 (Field goals), 2-10 (Free throws)
3-point goals: 2-10 (Darius Rozier 1-8, Andrew Mahaffey 0-1, Garrett Booth 0-1, De’Aaron Rozier 0-1, Harley Hinshaw 0-1)
NEXT GAME: at Tullahoma on Friday, Feb. 2 (6 p.m.)
Reach Demarco Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter, @iam__demo