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Defensive pressure sends Gibson County to Class 2A semifinals

Gibson County’s Evyn Cantrell (13) drives to the basket against Riverside during a Class 2A state quarterfinal at the Murphy Center on March 9, 2023.

MURFREESBORO — When you can get 20 points off turnovers, there is a good chance for a win.

Gibson County’s defense forced 16 Riverside turnovers with 10 steals and turned that into 20 points as the Lady Pioneers beat Riverside 60-37 in the Class 2A quarterfinals.

“I thought our defensive pressure had a lot to creating that lead,” Gibson County coach Mitch Wilkins said.

Gibson County (28-8) plays the Gatlinburg-Pittman/McMinn Central winner at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

The Lady Pioneers brought waves of defensive pressure that caused Riverside problems throughout the game.

And offensively, Gibson County came out firing, with 25 points in the first quarter. Riverside worked to slow down Micah Hart, holding her to four points in the first half, but that didn’t stop Evyn Cantrell from getting hot. Cantrell his three 3-pointers and scored 17 points in the first half to lead the offense.

“Evyn has played a huge role all year long stepping up for us in those scenarios,” Wilkins said. “The other girls did as well. They rallied around and said we aren’t going to care who is scoring; we are just going to score.”

Freshman A’Kira Riding didn’t shy away from the spotlight either as she scored eight points in the first half with her ability to drive to the basket.

“For those freshmen — A’Kira and Sania Reaves — they grew up a lot this year, and without them we are not here,” Wilkins said. “Their athleticism and their desire to win makes our team that much better.”

In the second half, Riverside settled in better offensively and cut Gibson County’s lead to 50-30 after three quarters.

Cantrell finished with 24 points to lead Gibson County, while Riding added 10 points.

“I saw that I was going to have to step up and score some because they were so focused on Micah,” Cantrell said.

Hart finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and two assists.

“I just kept trying to get open, but at the same time, I knew that my teammates were going to step up,” Hart said. “Evyn had the hot hand, so I kept getting it to her.”

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