Manchester Academy head coach Emily Poe and her Lady Mavericks have had one singular thought embedded in their collective brains since day one of the 2020-2021 season: winning the state championship.
All the conditioning, sprints, weightlifting, intense practices, and games were just stepping-stones on the path to the title. Nothing else mattered.
Well, the Lady Mavs reached the end of the road Saturday afternoon at Benton Academy, defeating the Columbus Christian Lady Rams 52-38 to bring home the 2020-21 MAIS Academy Class 2A State Championship and the first title in school history for the Lady Mavericks.
“After what happened to us last season when we hit that bump in the road, to make it our mission to get to this game and win it, it means everything to me and everything to the girls,” said Poe. “They worked hard all year and we accomplished what we set out to do.”
From the opening tip the Lady Mavs, who never once trailed in the championship game, were firing on all cylinders, led by forward Karley Martin. Martin opened the game scoring five points during an 8-0 run that eventually ended in a 14-7 first quarter advantage for the Lady Mavs.
Things slowed down slightly for Manchester in the second half when their do-it-all star Lanie Potter was sidelined after early foul trouble. The Lady Rams were able to narrow the MA lead to one at 21-20 but Lizzy Carpenter connected on one of two free throws and Sydney Porter had a steal and a layup to boost the MA lead back to 24-21 at the half.
A strange thing happened early in the third quarter, however, with the Lady Mavs leading by three, 26-23. A power surge shut the lights off in the Benton gymnasium, leaving the teams and fans in complete darkness. The 15-minute delay might have been just what the Lady Rams needed to slow the Lady Mavericks down, but Poe had other plans in mind.
“I told them when the lights come back on that we need to turn it on,” said Poe. “We need to pick this game up so let’s go ahead and put it away. They stepped up and did what they were supposed to do.”
When play resumed, Poe’s troops did just that, as Potter scored 10 straight points (including two three-pointers) and the Lady Mavs closed out the quarter on a 14-2 run to take a 40-25 lead into the final frame.
Manchester increased their lead to as many as 17 points before pulling away for the 14-point win.
Normally, many of the Lady Maverick’s offensive possessions end in a Potter basket, but in the championship game (and semi-final game as well) that wasn’t the case. The Lady Mav with the dagger this time was Martin. With Potter facing double teams throughout much of the tournament, Martin came up huge for the Lady Mavericks.
Said Poe, “Karley had a tremendous tournament and took the pressure off Lanie. We knew coming into the tournament that people were going to start to double cover Lanie so we practiced a lot on that, and Lanie did a great job dishing it off. It speaks to her unselfishness as a teammate. We knew someone else was going to have to step up, and Karley certainly stepped up and took on that role for us and played excellent.”
Martin (who averaged 17.6 points per game in the tournament) led the way for the Lady Mavs with 17 points, six rebounds, and seven blocked shots. Potter had 12 points, six boards, three assists and three steals, and Ivy Sowell also had 12 points, with seven rebounds.
Other MA scorers were Carpenter with six points (eight rebounds, four assists), Anna Kate Griffin with three points (three steals), and Porter with two points (four steals, three blocks).
For their efforts, Martin, Potter, Sowell, and Carpenter were named to the All-Tournament Team.
The Lady Mavs (28-1) turned their attention to the Overall Tournament where they hosted a first-round matchup Tuesday night against Columbia, winner of the Academy 3A consolation game.
Here's a look at the games leading up to the title game in the tournament:
Lady Mavericks 64, Centreville 51
Coming into the semi-final game against the Lady Tigers, Manchester knew to have any success, they had to devise a plan to slow down Lady Tiger talented junior guard Savannah Hailey. Despite the fact that Hailey eventually scored a game-high 28 points, the Lady Mavs were able to contain her just enough to pull out the 13-point win and advance to the finals.
After one quarter of play, Manchester led 16-11 and Hailey had scored seven of her team’s 11 points. It was then that Poe went into her bag of tricks and pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the form of a Griffin. Utilizing a box-and-one defense, Poe gave Griffin the assignment of guarding Hailey one-on-one and the senior defensive stopper was up to the task.
Griffin hounded Hailey most of the quarter, limiting her touches and holding her scoreless until the 2:56 mark. By that point, the Lady Mavs had opened up a 10-point lead en route to a 32-17 halftime lead.
Martin poured in a team-high 22 points in the winning effort to go along with eight rebounds. Potter recorded a double-double with 17 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four blocks, and Carpenter chipped in with a double-double of her own with 12 points and 15 boards.
Rounding out the scoring was Sowell with eight and Porter with five.
Lady Mavericks 62, Tunica 31
Leading the way for the Lady Mavs in the tournament opener against Tunica was Potter and Martin with 21 and 14 points, respectively. Porter added eight, Carpenter had seven, Sowell had six, Presley Trammell had four and Aubrey Martin had two.