HENDERSONVILLE - The Merrol Hyde Magnet School Lady Hawks punched their ticket for the District 7-A tournament championship with a 61-38 semifinal win over the KIPP-Nashville Lady Warriors at home on Friday.
“I’m super proud of them,” Merrol Hyde head coach Jimmy Steen said of his team. “They’ve been working hard every day. They’re a bunch of great kids.”
The Lady Hawks will face LEAD Academy in the finals at 6 p.m. Saturday at Merrol Hyde.
“They’re a good athletic team,” Steen said of LEAD, which finished second in the district to Merrol Hyde in the regular season.
The Lady Hawks defended their undefeated record against district competition against KIPP in the finals.
“I felt so sick to my stomach before the game,” said Macy Thomas of Merrol Hyde. “One game can mess things up.”
But if she was feeling nervous before the game, she didn’t show it once the teams hit the court. Thomas, the school’s all-time leading scorer, led the Lady Hawks with 22 points, including seven in the first period to help her team to a 21-9 lead.
“It’s a semifinal game. There’s a good crowd. You’re worried you won’t have a good energy level,” Steen said. “Or you come out too amped up and then we get out of the what we want to do.
“One of our focuses was to get off to a good start,” he said.
After the Lady Warriors tied the score at 7-7, Merrol Hyde finished the first quarter with a 14-2 run.
“After the first play of the game, the energy on the team was way up. I could feel it,” said Merrol Hyde junior Peyton Mingle, who scored 21 points on seven 3-pointers. “It was there the whole game.”
“We focused on going inside,” Steen said. “That brought their defense in a little bit.”
“We wanted Peyton to get open looks, and she did,” Steen said of the school record holder for 3-pointers made in a season and a career.
After taking a 28-15 lead into halftime, Merrol Hyde outscored KIPP 33-13 in the second half.
“We were making the extra pass,” Thomas said. “Everyone was involved.”
Thomas’ speed and Mingle’s shooting provide a potent combination for the Lady Hawks’ offense, Steen said.
“Peyton gets a lot of her 3-pointers off Macy driving to the basket and kicking the ball back out,” Steen said.
“She makes us go,” he said of Thomas, who has the top-scoring average this season.
With the win, Merrol Hyde’s record now stands at 15-11.
Next up is a game against LEAD Academy for the district tournament championship.
“We’ve got to come out and play with the same energy as in the KIPP game,” Mingle said.
“We’re going to come at them full speed ahead,” Thomas added.
Whatever the outcome of the district tournament championship game, Merrol Hyde has already qualified for the Region 4-A tournament and will host a region tournament game on Saturday, Feb. 29.
Merrol Hyde (61) Macy Thomas 22, Peyton Mingle 21, Joslin Bowser 9, Taylor Jordin 6, Maddie Shelton 3.
KIPP (38) Madison Trotter 18, Melania Jones 6, Asali Tewogvola 5, Jayla Young 4, Shuniyah Roberts 3, Christian Chol 2.