Craig Harris/Macon County Times Macon County High junior guard Keeley Carter elevates for a first-quarter shot over Cheatham County senior Jorden Bumpus. Carter scored 16 points in the Tigerettes’ 75-51 loss on Friday morning.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Macon County High junior guard Keeley Carter elevates for a first-quarter shot over Cheatham County senior Jorden Bumpus. Carter scored 16 points in the Tigerettes’ 75-51 loss on Friday morning.

MURFREESBORO -- The fifth-ranked Cheatham County High School girls basketball team was struggling defensively in the early stages of last Friday morning's Class AA State Tournament semifinal contest against second-ranked Macon County.

Then, the Lady Cubs did something that they had not done at any point this season.

The risk led to a great reward.

Cheatham County transitioned from a man-to-man defense to a 3-2 zone late in the first quarter, and it resulted in a 17-0 run that allowed the Lady Cubs to take control and hand the Tigerettes a 75-51, season-ending loss at Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center.

"Them going to zone really hurt us," Macon County junior guard Keeley Carter. "We couldn't attack the basket and couldn't knock down shots. We didn't defend too well."

Cheatham County advanced to its first state championship game, facing Westview.

The Lady Cub program was 1-6 at the state tournament entering this year.

"The four starters that have been playing for four years ... we want it," Cheatham County senior point guard Emmy Nelson said. "We're going to get it."

Cheatham County faced the Tigerettes in the two teams' state opener last season, with the Lady Cubs suffering a 75-55 loss to Macon County.

"Everyone has been talking about it ... we got blown out last year ... same team ... same place," Nelson said. "We didn't want it to happen again."

The Tigerettes scored 29 points over the first seven minutes of last year's contest, and Macon County raced out to an 18-12 lead just 5:03 into Friday's rematch.

Then, the Lady Cubs transitioned to the zone defense.

"I used to be a boys assistant coach, and I was in charge of defense," Cheatham County head coach Jim Gibbs said. "We played Franklin, and they had a point guard who was really good. We went to that zone. He reminded me a lot of what the Carter girl (Tigerette junior guard Keeley Carter) did.

"I had that epiphany (of using that zone defense) last night about 9:15. I hadn't mentioned it to any of those guys until we got off of the bus (on Friday morning at Murphy Center)."

Abbi Douglas added, "We were planning on playing man the full time. We had practiced against (the 3-2 zone), because we had played teams who had ran it. So, we kind of had an idea of what to do."

Macon County (31-6) didn't score for the next seven-plus minutes.

"Their length really bothered us," White said. "We made 12

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turnovers in the first half. We tried to adjust at halftime. We just didn't do a good job of attacking the rim. We didn't shoot it well from the perimeter.

"Cheatham County played tremendous. They'd have beaten a lot of teams today. We didn't play our best. We played hard ... we just got beat."

The Tigerettes committed six turnovers over the first 4:03 of the second quarter.

"We work on (zone offense) every day," White said. "We got so far behind ... we were in desperation mode. When you are 18 or 20 points behind, you are desperate."

Macon County finished with 28 turnovers, and the Lady Cubs turned those turnovers into 31 points.

"It's all the time," Nelson said of the team talking about turning turnovers into transition opportunities. "That's our main goal."

White added, "They got a lot of baskets off of (turnovers). They looked a lot quicker than us. They were really on top of their game."

Abbi Douglas scored 14 of her game-high 27 points in the first half before sitting out the final 5:40 of the half after picking up her second foul. She also finished with 5 steals and 4 assists.

Junior teammate Alli Douglas picked it up from there, producing 8 points over the final 5:10 of the half. Alli Douglas -- a post player -- finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, converting on 6 of 9 field-goal attempts and 10 of 16 free-throw attempts.

"We got killed on the boards," White said of his squad's 31-26 rebounding deficiency. "(Alli Douglas) really hurt us."

Alli Douglas added, "Coach Gibbs told me that the key for me was to be confident in the paint. I had the advantage of height. I had to use that."

Carter's spinning layin with 17 seconds remaining in the half pulled the Tigerettes to within 9 points (33-24) at halftime.

"We talked about all the turnovers (at halftime), how we'd have to be more careful with the ball," Macon County sophomore point guard Jalynn Gregory said. "We were getting killed on the boards. We had to block out (Alli Douglas)."

After pouring in a game-high 28 points in Macon County's quarterfinal win over Covington, Carter scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds against the Lady Cubs.

"We talked about her so much," Alli Douglas said. "We knew she was a good player. We knew we had to step up and guard her."

Abbi Douglas added, "Our plan was to stop Keeley and watch (Gregory) and (Abby Shoulders) on their threes. (Gregory) just pulls up from halfcourt."

The turnover trend continued for the Tigerettes in the third quarter as Cheatham County opened the second half on a 13-4 run. Following a Macon County turnover, Abbi Douglas converted on a transition layin to create an 18-point margin with 1:35 remaining in the period.

"They all played good," Carter said. "They all attacked the basket. They all shot the ball well."

Gregory made three 3-pointers in the final period, with her 27-footer at the 4:27 mark pulling her squad back to within 11 points. However, that's as close as the Tigerettes were able to get.

"We only lost to one AA team (Upperman)," White said. "Their performance as a AA team was by far the best we've seen (this season)."

The Lady Cubs shot 57 percent from the field and made 26 of 41 free-throw attempts.

Conversely, Macon County shot 36 percent from the field and made 11 of 15 free throws.

Nelson backed the production of Abbi Douglas and Alli Douglas with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. She made 5 of 6 field-goal attempts.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime event," Nelson said of playing in the state championship game.

Abbi Douglas added, "I'm excited. We don't act like it's as big of a deal as it is. I'm just happy to be here."

Gregory scored a team-high 23 points and also had five steals.

Shoulders backed the offensive production of Gregory and Carter with 9 points.

The Tigerettes surrendered a season-high 75 points and had their 14-game winning streak snapped.

"We've done many things this year," White said. "We won our invitational tournament (the Nera White Christmas Tournament). We went to Arizona and played (in the Nike Tournament of Champions), represented our state real well and finished fourth in a nationally-ranked tournament. I tried to do everything I could to prepare our team for this point. We've played the toughest schedule we've ever played at Macon County High School. We just didn't have our stuff today.

"We don't lose anybody. We have no seniors. Maybe we can use this as a point of moving toward next year. Of course, we did that last year after the heartbreaking things that happened last year (losing to Upperman on a buzzer-beating basket at the end of overtime in the state championship game). I'm just really proud of our team. We won 31 games. It's the second year in a row we won 30 games. That's a huge accomplishment. We'll just have to get over this. It won't be something we'll do in a day or two."

• Cheatham County won the state championship with Saturday afternoon's 43-40 win over Westview.

Abbi Douglas -the program's all-time leading scorer -- finished with a game-high 17 points and was selected as the tournament's most valuable player.

She was joined on the all-tournament team by both Carter and Gregory, along with Marshall County's Damarial Ingram, Westview's Zanasha Gadlen, Westview's Reagan Johnson, Westview's Alexis Callins, Cheatham County's Alli Douglas, Cheatham County's Emmy Nelson and Cheatham Counth's Eryn Nelson.

The Lady Cubs ended the season with 19 consecutive victories.

Cheatham County girls 75, Macon County girls 51

CHEATHAM COUNTY (75) – Abbi Douglas 27, Alli Douglas 22, Emmy Nelson 14, Eryn Nelson 6, Jorden Bumpus 3, Harper Dee 3.

MACON COUNTY (51) – Jalynn Gregory 23, Keeley Carter 16, Abby Shoulders 9, McKaylee Mix 3.

Half: 33-24, Cheatham County. Three-point goals: Cheatham County 1 (Abbi Douglas 1), Macon County 6 (Gregory 3, Carter 1, Mix 1, Shoulders 1). Records: Cheatham County 30-3, Macon County 31-6.