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MA junior high girls win AISA state title

Marengo Academy picked up wins over Escambia and Evangel Christian Saturday to claim the AISA Class AA Girls Junior High State Championship for the second consecutive year.

“Each class they take the top six teams that turned in their records,” MA head coach Danny Stenz said of the tournament set up. “We went in as the No. 2 seed with a 9-1 record. Evangel was the No. 1. The top two seeds get a bye in the first round.”

The Lady Longhorns’ only blemish came earlier in the season in a one-point loss to Escambia Academy, who entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed.

“We ended up playing Escambia first,” Stenz said. “They had beat us by one down there in Escambia. I kind of figured we were the best two teams there.”

MA trailed throughout that game until the fourth quarter, when Brooke Smyly hit a shot with 1:40 to play that gave the Lady Longhorns their first lead of the game. Smyly’s shot was the culmination of a 9-0 fourth quarter that fueled a 33-32 win.

Conner Etheridge led the way with 11 points in the contest while Katie Tucker scored 10.

After avenging their only loss of the year with a win over Escambia, the Lady Longhorns had to turn around and play immediately against Evangel.

“Once we beat (Escambia), I think that pretty much gave us the momentum to get through the championship game,” Stenz said.

While the Lady Longhorns typically lean toward an up-tempo game with a high pressure defense, Stenz said his squad adjusted its strategy for the Evangel contest.

“We played a basic 2-1-2 defense. We made them shoot a lot from the outside,” Stenz said. “We got some fast break points off of rebounds and steals.”

That game plan added up to a 38-31 Marengo win that saw Chandler Stenz lead the way with 15 points. Etheridge and Tucker each added eight while Smyly scored seven.

Tucker earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors for her efforts while Stenz and Etheridge each made the All-Tournament team.