Craig Harris/Macon County Times The Macon County cheerleaders, girls basketball players and student section celebrate as they pose for a picture following Saturday evening’s 69-50 victory over visiting Meigs County in one of eight Class AA sectional contests.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

The Macon County cheerleaders, girls basketball players and student section celebrate as they pose for a picture following Saturday evening’s 69-50 victory over visiting Meigs County in one of eight Class AA sectional contests.

Saturday night’s Class AA sectional contest at Macon County High’s Nera White Gymnasium wasn’t “just another contest.”

However, the Macon County girls basketball tried to treat it as if that was the case.

Admittedly, it didn’t unfold much differently than the second-ranked Tigerettes’ previous five postseason contests as they roared into the AA State Tournament for the third consecutive season with a 69-50 rout of top-ranked Meigs County.

“We treat it like it’s just another game so that we don’t affect our game,” Macon County junior forward McKaylee Mix said. “We knew what would happen if we won this game. We just focus on being loose and being ourselves.”

The Tigerettes were loose enough to build a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter and never trailed.

“By watching film, I felt like we could beat them, but I didn’t think we’d be up that much,” Macon County sophomore point guard Jalynn Gregory said.

It was Macon County’s fourth consecutive sectional win. The Tigerettes won at McMinn Central the last two seasons and defeated visiting Creek Wood in a 2013 sectional.

“It’s indescribable,” Mix said of reaching the state tournament. “I’ve been dreaming about it since was in second grade, ever since I started playing. It’s unreal.”

Gregory added, “It feels great. It’s a felling you can’t really describe. You are so excited. Everyone is rooting for you.”

Gregory factored heavily into Macon County’s strong start, pushing the ball upcourt in transition and also penetrating to the basket as the team ran its halfcourt offense to create opportunities for herself and for teammates as well.

“She played really good,” Tigerette head coach Larry White said. “She was great defensively. Jalynn helped control the tempo of the game and made great decisions, and she did a great job in our delay game.”

Gregory added, “We thought they’d hedge better (on ball screens), but we knew they wouldn’t switch (the man they were guarding). We realized they were not ever guarding us off the screen, so we needed to attack.”

Leading 11-9 late in the first quarter, Macon County junior guard Jamie Ashburn made a 3-pointer, sparking an 8-0 run over the final 86 seconds of the period.

“We knew we’d be able to get some easy transition baskets,” Mix said. “We knew it was going to be there.”

Sophomore teammate Abby Shoulders came up with a steal that led to a transition opportunity that ended with Gregory’s layin. Then, Gregory threw a pass downcourt in the final seconds to junior teammate Keeley Carter, who converted on a 3-point play for a 19-9 lead.

“We knew they played a lot like us defensive wise and offensive wise,” Carter said. “We knew if we faked the three and drove that it would be there.”

White added, “We thought we were a little more physical than them. We went five-out (offensively) so we could get to the basket. We got to the rim really easy early. Our two post players (Mix and junior forward Marah King) played really well.”

Meigs County guards Kassidy Kenny and Jacelyn Stone turned the tables on the Tigerettes in the second quarter, repeatedly driving to the basket for layins.

“We didn’t think that (Stone) would do that,” Carter said. “We thought that she was more of a facilitator.

“We had an idea that (Kenny) could drive and go right to the basket. We had to be aware of that, and our help-side (defense) had to be there.”

Gregory added, “We expected that from them. It just took them a little time to get used to being here, but we were expecting it from the beginning.”

Carter scored the final four points of the half, extending a 7-point lead to 37-26 at halftime.

Then, Carter scored the first 4 points of the second half, and the lead continued to swell.

Late in the third quarter, Gregory penetrated into the lane and passed to Mix for a layin, and on the next possession, Gregory converted a 4-point play to send her squad into the fourth quarter with a 54-35 advantage.

“We were just like, ‘Go back out there, keep doing what you’ve been doing and win the game,’” Gregory said of the team’s halftime discussion. “(White) said, ‘There’s 16 minutes between you and going back to the state.’”

Both Carter and Gregory picked up their fourth fouls over the first three minutes of the final period, and Carter fouled out with 4:30 remaining.

However, the Lady Tigers (29-4) weren’t able to get any closer than 16 points.

“We knew they were ranked higher than us,” Carter said. “We knew we had to come out and play our game, and it would be a close game.”

White added, “To be a substate (sectional) game, it turned out really well. There was no way we were going to lose tonight with those people (behind us) and in this atmosphere. I told the kids, ‘You need to feed off the emotion of the crowd,’ and we did. I couldn’t be any more pleased. We have played one game at a time.”

Carter had a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds, converting on 10 of 16 field-goal attempts, and Gregory provided 17 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.

Mix scored 11 points. Both Mix and King made 4 of 5 field-goal attempts.

The Tigerettes shot 56 percent from the field, connected on 15 of 21 free throws and outrebounded Meigs County by a 31-20 margin.

The Lady Tigers shot 40 percent from the field and were 16 of 24 at the free-throw line.

Stone and Kenny led Meigs County offensively with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

The Lady Tigers ended their season by losing consecutive games for the first time this season (having suffered a 58-56, overtime loss to McMinn Central in last Wednesday evening’s Region 3-AA Tournament championship game). Those setbacks came following a 22-game winning streak.

Macon County (30-5) won its 13th consecutive game and will end the season with a 15-0 mark on its home court.

The Tigerettes have won their six postseason contests by an average of 23 points per game, with none of those contests being closer than 14 points.

It was White’s eighth sectional/substate contest but the first one that one of his teams have hosted, including five sectional/substate appearances during his tenure as the head coach at Red Boiling Springs. White’s teams have won six of those eight contests.

Macon County girls 69, Meigs County 50

MEIGS COUNTY (50) – Jacelyn Stone 12, Kassidy Kenny 11, Jaci Powell 7, Mackenzie Crabtree 6, Brianna Bales 5, Ella Crowder 4, Krista Crager 3, Anna Crowder 2.

MACON COUNTY (69) – Keeley Carter 24, Jalynn Gregory 17, McKaylee Mix 11, Marah King 8, Abby Shoulders 6, Jamie Ashburn 3.

Half: 37-26, Macon County. Three-point goals: Meigs County 2 (Bales 1, Kenny 1), Macon County 2 (Ashburn 1, Gregory 1). Records: Meigs County 29-4, Macon County 30-5.

Class AA sectional scores

South Greene 65, Gatlinburg-Pittman 60

Grainger 44, Northview Academy 36

DeKalb County 44, McMinn Central 42

Macon County 69, Meigs County 50

Cheatham County 41, Creek Wood 28

Marshall County 49, East Nashville 35

Westview 51, Mitchell 43

Covington 53, Jackson South Side 43