Craig Harris/Macon County Times Macon County High junior forward Marah King looks to pass during second-quarter action as Upperman sophomore Reagan Hurst defends.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Macon County High junior forward Marah King looks to pass during second-quarter action as Upperman sophomore Reagan Hurst defends.

The Macon County High girls basketball team prepared for its biggest nemesis without head coach Larry White.

White missed last Wednesday afternoon's practice, but it didn't appear to significantly affect the fifth-ranked Tigerettes' performance on Thursday evening as they captured a 48-34 victory over top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Upperman at Nera White Gymnasium.

"We might ought to do that every time," White said jokingly after the game. "The game plan was fabulous."

White missed practice due to being at the hospital with his wife, Jeannie White, who had surgery last Wednesday due to an infection.

"It was kind of weird," Macon County senior guard Keeley Carter said of White's absence. "Our assistant coach, Coach (Kailyn) Thompson, did a great job of going over stuff. Before practice, we all got in a huddle and prayed for Jeannie.

"I think we bought into the game more because of that situation. It made us more focused."

It was the seventh meeting between the District 8-AA foes over the last two seasons. The Lady Bees won all five meetings last season, including a 64-62, overtime win in the Class AA state final that came thanks to Akira Levy's layin at the buzzer. Levy - who was the Class AA Miss Basketball winner - is now a freshman guard at the University of Missouri.

"This is an entirely different team this year," White said of Upperman. "They have to do things to get open. When they had Levy, they could just give it to her and let her go."

Then, the two teams played in Baxter on Jan. 15, with the Lady Bees emerging with a 37-29 victory.

"We know their plays … they know our plays," Carter said. "We had to attack the basket with a little more energy tonight."

The Tigerettes limited Upperman to its lowest offensive output of the season.

"We did a really good job of taking away what they wanted to do," White said. "It's out of the top (defensively). We executed our plan to perfection."

The lead changed hands early on, with Upperman's last lead coming when Brooke Shrum converting on a layin at the 4:00 mark of the first quarter.

However, the Lady Bees didn't score for the next 9:13.

Upperman sophomore Reagan Hurst scored a game-high 17 points in her squad's earlier win over Macon County, but she was limited to 10 points on Thursday, with 4 of those coming over the game's final four minutes.

"My girl was Brooke Shrum," Carter said. "We had a key word to leave her and go double (team). Every time (Hurst) would drive, we had extra help in the lane so she wouldn't get to the rim."

The Tigerettes took advantage of the visitors' scoring lull by reeling off the next 12 points. Carter, junior McKaylee Mix, sophomore Jalynn Gregory and sophomore Abby Shoulders all contributed during the surge.

"That's been a part of our game plan since the first time we played them," White said. "We changed our offensive structure. Everybody is excited about it. Everybody has a role in it. Everybody scores."

However, Macon County (24-5 overall, 13-1 in District 8-AA) went for more than five minutes without scoring after that. That allowed the Lady Bees to produce the final 6 points of the half to pull to within 17-12 at halftime.

Upperman (24-4, 13-1) cut the lead to 3 points on Hurst's transition layin with 6:05 remaining in the third quarter.

The Tigerettes didn't create separation until going on a 9-0 run, which spanned 6:53 from the latter portion of the third quarter until midway through the final period.

Late in the third quarter, Shoulders made two free throws before Carter converted on an interior opportunity. Then, Gregory drove to the basket for a layin early in the fourth quarter, and junior guard Jamie Ashburn followed with a 3-pointer, capping the run and extending the lead to 14 points.

Carter and Gregory combined for 26 points in the two teams' earlier meeting, with the rest of the Macon County players combining for just 3 points. However, the supporting cast combined for 20 points in the rematch.

"We talked about driving and kicking," Carter said. "Jamie Ashburn has been really on for us lately. Once she made one (3-pointer in the first quarter), it was going to get all the rest of us going."

The Lady Bees didn't get any closer than 8 points down the stretch.

Upperman actually shot 50 percent from the field but attempted just 26 field goals. The Lady Bees committed 13 turnovers and were outrebounded by a 20-14 margin.

Macon County shot 36 percent from the field but was 18 of 19 at the free-throw line, with Gregory and Shoulders combining to sink all 10 of the team's free throws over the final 2:29.

Carter finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Gregory provided 13 points. Ashburn and Shoulders scored 9 and 8 points, respectively.

Hurst and sophomore teammate Torie Brooks scored 10 points each for Upperman, which had its 14-game winning streak snapped.

The Tigerettes won their seventh consecutive game and pulled into a tie with the Lady Bees for the 8-AA regular-season championship.

"It feels really good," Carter said. "We went to the locker room and were screaming and yelling and jumping.

"It will give us confidence if we play them again."

Macon County had lost 15 consecutive games to Upperman. The Tigerettes' last win over the Lady Bees was a 50-45 victory in Lafayette on Dec. 10, 2013.

It also snapped a 55-game winning streak for Upperman in regular-season, district contests.

"I couldn't be any more pleased," White said. "I kept telling myself that I feel like we are better than them this year, but until you beat them, you are not better than them.

"I hope this gets us over the hump. I hope we play them three more times … and in the state final."

Macon County - which has already earned a spot in the regional tournament - garnered the No. 1 seed in the District 8-AA Tournament and will play Cannon County, Livingston Academy or York Institute in Friday evening's semifinal round at 7 p.m. The tournament will be played at Tennessee Tech University.

The tournament's championship game is slated for Monday evening at 7:30.

Macon County girls 48, Upperman 34

UPPERMAN (34) – Torie Brooks 10, Reagan Hurst 10, Brooke Shrum 7, Brooklyn Crouch 6, Ashland McClellan 1.

MACON COUNTY (48) – Keeley Carter 15, Jalynn Gregory 13, Jamie Ashburn 9, Abby Shoulders 8, McKaylee Mix 3.

Half: 17-12, Macon County. Three-point goals: Upperman 2 (Brooks 2), Macon County 5 (Ashburn 2, Carter 1, Gregory 1, Mix 1). Records: Upperman 24-4 overall, 13-1 in District 8-AA; Macon County 24-5, 13-1.