Demarco Moore, Sports Writer
TULLAHOMA, Tenn. — The Coffee County Lady Raiders showed patience and grit on Friday night against their cross-county rivals.
Tullahoma, which Coffee County had previously beaten 47-30 on Jan. 9 in Manchester, cut a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit down to five points with 35 seconds left in the game on a 3-pointer by sophomore Julia Duncan.
But the Lady Raiders withstood Duncan’s 26-point performance thanks to a stellar night at the free-throw line, holding on for a 53-44 win — their fifth-straight win overall and in District 8-AAA play.
Coffee County (21-2 overall; 8-1 District 8-AAA) raced out to a 9-0 lead at the start of what turned out to be a physical rivalry game, but the Lady Wildcats settled down and pulled to within 23-16 at halftime.
The Lady Raiders stretched their lead to 40-26 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, poised to pull away down the stretch much like they’ve done during their four-game winning streak.
However, Duncan’s 3-pointer with 1:37 left cut Coffee County’s lead to 45-37, and CC Smith followed with a pair of free throws that made it 46-39 with 51 seconds left before another Duncan 3-pointer left the Lady Wildcats trailing 47-42 with 35 seconds remaining.
Coffee County would ice the game at the free-throw line, however, finishing 18-of-26 for the game.
Freshman Bella Vinson sunk 12-of-14 free-throw attempts, leading Coffee County with 23 points, while junior Abby Morgan added all 14 of her points in the second half.
As a team, the Lady Raiders also recorded seven blocks.
Tullahoma 35, Red Raiders 31
If Friday’s ending between the Red Raiders and Wildcats seemed familiar, that’s because their first meeting on Jan. 9 in Manchester nearly ended the exact same way.
Coffee County trailed late in the fourth quarter after Ben Fulton’s free throw gave Tullahoma a lead that would turn out to be the game-winning points in a 35-31 win over the Red Raiders.
It was the fourth-straight loss in District 8-AAA play for Coffee County (13-8 overall; 5-4 District 8-AAA).
Fans of both teams will remember the Red Raiders also trailing 42-41 on Jan. 9 before Darius Rozier’s layup gave CCHS the lead with 21 seconds left. De’Aaron Rozier stripped Tullahoma’s Nic Barstad to effectively ice that game for Coffee County, but Barstad came up with a similar defensive play to help the Wildcats hold on for the win.
Fulton’s go-ahead free-throw came with 14 seconds left, leaving Coffee County a chance at the final possession of the game.
After being the one who was stripped on Jan. 9, Barstad came up with a steal for Tullahoma, and gave the Wildcats a 33-31 lead on a free-throw make.
Coffee County had one final chance to tie the game, but would have the ball stolen away a second time.
Fulton finished with 18 points, while De’Aaron Rozier led the Red Raiders 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 (53)
Bella Vinson 4-9 12-14 23, Abby Morgan 1-4 3-4 14, Jacey Vaughn 1-3 3-6 8, Jenna Garretson 3-4 0-1 6, 1 Alliyah Williams 1-2 0-0 2
Team totals: 10-23 (Field goals), 18-26 (Free throws)
3-point goals: 5-16 (Abby 3-5, Bella Vinson 1-3, Jacey Vaughn 1-5, Ellie Graham 0-3)
Red Raiders (31)
De’Aaron Rozier 6-10 0-4 12, Grey Riddle 4-4 1-5 9, Darius Rozier 1-6 0-2 8, Harley Hinshaw 0-1 1-2 1, Garrett Booth 0-3 1-2 1
Team totals: 11-27 (Field goals), 3-16 (Free throws)
3-point goals: 2-11 (Darius Rozier 2-9, De’Aaron Rozier 0-2)
NEXT GAME: Home versus Franklin County on Tuesday, Feb. 6 (6 p.m.)
Reach Demarco Moore at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter, @iam__demo