Rogersville defends home court to advance

It hangs on the south wall of the gymnasium alongside the other banners from other sports and, in all honesty, it serves as a challenge.

Under girls basketball, it lists district champions, and the most recent for the Rogersville Lady Wildcats was in the 2008-2009 season.

Come Friday, that entry could have some company.

“We’ve got COC champions on there this year, so of course we’re shooting for district champions,” Rogersville standout Hailey Brown said. “That’s one thing we look at every day. It reminds us every day to push harder in practice and games.”

Brown offered those words Tuesday night after she scored a team-high 15 points while teammates Sarah Posey and Jenna Gault combined for the same total as Rogersville shucked aside the slow-paced Aurora Lady Houn’s 53-26 in a Class 4 District 11 semifinal at Rogersville High School.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE GAME

Now comes a much greater challenge. Rogersville advanced to the district championship against Hillcrest, the team that eliminated the Lady Wildcats in the district semifinals last season en route to the Class 4 Final Four.

The matchup is at 6 p.m. Friday in Rogersville, and should be much more competitive than the Lady Wildcats’ Tuesday semifinal.

You see, it was only a 7-5 game after the opening seconds of the second quarter as Aurora went old-school by playing keep-away deep in the backcourt and rarely challenging the basket. However, Rogersville pressured with half-court defense and tore through the second quarter, opening a 27-9 advantage going into halftime.

Brown is the go-to play and demonstrated it again against Aurora with three assists, two steals and two rebounds. She missed only one of her eight field-goal attempts, while Sarah Jordan pulled down a team-best six rebounds. Rogersville was 21 of 41 from the field, including 19 of 37 from inside the 3-point line.

“I was proud of our kids. It wasn’t something we game-planned for,” Rogersville coach Denny McHenry said of Aurora’s slow place. “I was proud how we stayed the course. We didn’t panic.”

Perhaps that was to be expected. Rogersville has played tremendous competition this season after McHenry beefed up the schedule over the summer.

This has been a season when Rogersville played top-ranked Crane twice and competed against Class 2 district champion Strafford, Class 2 district runner-up Fair Grove as well as Republic. Rogersville is 16-9.

“I think people thought, because we went 19-8 last year and didn’t lose anybody, that we were just going to win 20 games,” McHenry said. “But they didn’t understand what our schedule was like. We’ve lost five or six games by four points or less.”

McHenry figures Hillcrest coach Jeni Hopkins will motivate her team by playing the underdog card, given the Lady Hornets are the No. 4 seed and playing second-seeded Rogersville.

“I just told our girls, when you get to this point of the season, it’s not about that. It’s who plays best on this night,” McHenry said.

Rogersville will have to contest with Hillcrest’s athleticism, but the Lady Wildcats fortunately have more weapons than just Brown.

“Our defense has to get out on the 3-point line, guard them and not let them have easy shots,” Gault said.

However, Rogersville won’t have to look far for motivation. The banner in the gym has been a motivator in addition to the team’s natural eagerness to keep advancing.

“That’s one of our main goals since the beginning of the season,” Posey said. “We’ll see what comes next. Seeing the banner every day coming out on the court, that’s on our minds, that the next game is what we play for.”

Larissa Pyle-Moore led Aurora with 15 points, while Morgan Montgomery and Ashley Vaught combined for 10 points. Aurora finished the season 15-9.