TANNER — Daneshia Malone answered the question instantly.
How many consecutive Limestone County titles has the Clements High girls basketball program won? The question didn't require complicated math.
Malone is a senior. She’s been starting at center for Clements since seventh grade. This is her sixth time to play in the tournament. And she’s never lost a county tournament game.
A trend Clements made sure continued Friday in the semifinals. As usual, Malone dominated, leading second-seeded Clements past West Limestone 51-43, giving the Colts an opportunity to win a sixth straight Limestone County title.
Clements advances to face tournament host Tanner tonight in the championship game.
“Thinking about what we’ve done over the years, it’s kind of hard to believe,” said Malone, a 6-foot senior. “Every year at the county tournament, there’s more pressure because we’ve won so many in a row. None of us want the streak to end.”
Clements coach Sonya Marks agreed.
“We’ve had to go through some really good teams over the years to win that many in a row,” she said. “Just like tonight. West Limestone is tough. Hopefully we can keep this thing going.”
Getting to the championship game wasn’t easy. Every time Clements built what appeared to be a comfortable lead, West Limestone rallied back.
West Limestone made its first run in the second quarter, overcoming a double-figure deficit to pull within two by halftime. The Wildcats made another run in the fourth quarter, pulling within five.
But Malone and company made sure this one didn’t slip away.
Even with West Limestone playing a triangle-and-two defense — using three defenders to isolate Malone in the lane — Clements’ star post player still managed a dominant performance. She finished with 23 points, scoring almost every time she touched the basketball in the first half.
“I see that a lot, teams using three players to guard me,” Malone said. “If I can’t score, I just kick it back out to my teammates because they’re wide open. I’ve got a lot of trust in my teammates.”
For good reason. Clements' supporting cast made good use of their open opportunities. Cynetria Malone finished with 14 points, while McCall Gossett added six.
Bugg Grizzard paced West Limestone with 14 points, while Autumn Bates tossed in 10.
Just minutes after the semifinals had ended, Malone and company already had turned their attention to the championship.
“I’m already looking forward to it,” she said. “This is something we don’t want to end.”
East Limestone 58, West Limestone 49: Jordon Gandy has built a reputation as one of the area’s top scorers.
But for the East Limestone star, that’s just a small slice of his game.
With West Limestone using two defenders to isolate Gandy, the junior forward took advantage of an opportunity to showcase his wide array of basketball skills, leading East Limestone past the Wildcats in the Limestone County tournament semifinals.
East Limestone advances to face tournament host Tanner tonight in the championship game.
Gandy was strong on the boards, leading East Limestone (15-8) with nine rebounds. He also dished out six assists and recorded four steals.
Oh yeah, even with constant double-team, Gandy still poured in the points, pacing the Indians with 18.
“Here lately, teams are really focusing on stopping Jordon,” East Limestone coach Chad Drake said. “That means our supporting cast has to play well, and we’ve been getting that. Plus, Jordon is such a great team player. He makes everyone around him better.”
East Limestone’s supporting cast shined on the big stage. Tristan Matthews made a few clutch shots in the second half, helping the Indians pull away.
Matthews and Blake Tucker both finished with 13 points for East Limestone.
“When they double-team Jordon, that just means somebody else has to step up,” Matthews said. “But all that just means they’re putting us in position to make plays. You just have to knock down the shots.”
And East Limestone consistently did that, building a 27-19 lead by halftime. The Indians maintained a double-figure cushion for most of the second half.
Nathaniel Adams led West Limestone (18-8) with 17 points, while Austin Tuten added 11. Kyle Casteel tossed in eight for the Wildcats.
East Limestone played Tanner last season in the championship game — a contest that created an emotional and entertaining environment. The Rattlers won the 2012 title.
“The championship game is going to be a crazy environment, just like it was last year,” Gandy said. “It’s going to be fun. I can’t wait.”
“It hit me about midway through the fourth quarter that we were going to be playing in the championship again,” he said. “That’s when I started thinking about. It’s going to be a fun game.”
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at email@example.com.
Girls: Clements 51, West Limestone 43
Boys: East Limestone 58, West Limestone 49
Girls: Clements vs. Tanner, 6 p.m.
Boys: East Limestone vs. Tanner, 7:30 p.m.
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