MURFREESBORO — Going into halftime down 22-19, not much was going right for the South Gibson girls basketball team. But one thing that coach Catie Embrey emphasized during the break was defense.
And defensive intensity is what the Lady Hornets showed in the second half.
South Gibson held Dyer County to one point in the third quarter to turn that three-point deficit into a 11-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Hornets advanced with a 46-29 victory over Dyer County.
South Gibson (27-9) plays Livingston Academy at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday in the state semifinals.
In the first half, South Gibson went 3-for-17 from 3-point range, while Dyer County found some open 3s and hit four of them.
Alana Seals came out and hit a jumper followed by one from Faith Reed in the first 1:05 of the third quarter to give South Gibson the lead 23-22.
But it was a 3-pointer by Karson Dunn with 3:30 remaining in the third quarter that put South Gibson up nine (31-22) and gave them confidence.
“I really don’t know,” Dunn said when asked about what was special about hitting shots this game. “Shots really haven’t been falling the last couple of games like I want them to, but you just have to keep shooting. They face-guarded Hallie (Allen) and Lily (Baggett), so someone had to step up.”
Dunn, who is a freshman, had a big game offensively with 16 points, including a 4-for-11 mark from the 3-point line. She also added nine rebounds and three assists.
“She had the opportunity with Gleason as (Gleason) coach Sean Stephenson is a family friend, so she got to see the stage last year,” South Gibson coach Catie Embrey said. “She got to experience the process leading up to the game. That was a big thing for her, and it made her really hungry for her opportunity.
“The opportunity was tonight for her when they were guarding Alana, Lily and Hallie, she stepped up. She is one of those kids that we call T.P.W. or Tough People Win.”
Seals had led South Gibson in scoring recently, but she missed some shots on Tuesday. That didn’t deter her from still playing well in other parts of the game. During that early run in the third quarter, Seals had a nice pass across the lane for an assist on an Ellie Thetford layup, and then she stole the ball on the in-bounds pass.
“I had to play defense,” Seals said. “During the season, I wasn’t the leading scorer, so I go toward me defense. I am trying to do better all together.”
As the horn sounded to end the third quarter, Lily Baggett sank a 3-pointer for South Gibson’s first double-digit lead of the game (34-23).
Dyersburg had one point in the third quarter and finished the second half with only seven points.
“(Coach Embrey) told us at halftime that we had to play defense, and I guess we did,” Allen said.
Hallie Allen was South Gibson’s second leading scorer with seven points to go with nine rebounds, two blocks and an assist.
“I think in the third quarter, we settled in,” Allen said. “It is a big moment. We have been preparing for this the past two years, so it was realizing we know how to play basketball. We know what we are doing.”
South Gibson finished 6-of-28 from 3-point range (21.4%) and shot 30.4% from the field.