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Back-to-back: Murray girls beat Model for second straight region championship

Feb. 16—CHATSWORTH — After waiting more than 50 years for a region championship, the Murray County Lady Indians only had to wait a year to do it again.

A region title in 2023 marked Murray's first since 1967. The 2024 team made it a second straight Region 7-2A title when the Lady Indians defeated Model 39-30 in the championship game of the region tournament Friday night at Murray County.

"You saw some real history tonight," Murray County head coach Chris Tipton said. "You can take real pride in that as a Lady Indian."

When Tipton took over the program ahead of the 2021-22 season, he preached that the Murray County program had potential, it just needed to "take the lid off."

The lid was off when the Lady Indians broke through for the region title last year. Now, they've done it again.

"It's a battle every day to keep that lid off," Tipton said. "These girls just refused to let it slip back on."

In a defensive struggle of a game where points came at a premium due to ratcheted-up defensive intensity, Murray (21-6) made its move over Model (22-5) in the third quarter.

"They came out and hit us in the mouth, and it took us a little bit to adjust," Tipton said. "Once we did, we kind of took control of the game."

The Lady Indians led 8-7 after one quarter, then, after falling behind by six late in the second quarter, scored the final five points of the half to make the score 17-16 Model at halftime.

Model hit a pair of 3-pointers early in the third quarter to get a 23-18 lead.

Through the rest of the third quarter, the Lady Indians outscored Model 14-2.

"We were playing a little frantic, kind of playing with our hair on fire," Tipton said. "Once we settled in, our offense, when it executed was real precise."

It started with back-to-back 3-pointers from Callan Ledford. Skyler Mahoney and Emma Blaylock made layups to get the run to 10-0, and Mahoney closed out the scoring in the third after Model got a bucket.

Murray led 32-25 after three quarters, didn't let up on defense in the fourth, and earned the region title in front of their home fans.

"Tonight's game was all over the place, but what wasn't was our defense," Tipton said.

Ledford led Murray with 14 points, hitting three triples. Before the crucial back-to-back threes in the third quarter, Ledford also stepped into a second-quarter triple that ended a lengthy Murray scoring drought. Mahoney had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Blaylock scored eight, including a big late basket in the fourth quarter.

Murray ended its long championship drought last year with a team led by a pair of seniors who were 1,000-point scorers in Ella Dotson and Mattie Nuckolls. With that core of the team gone, Tipton said many Murray fans might have expected a down year.

"I knew what I had coming," Tipton said.

They did it again with a re-tooled roster, led by some returning contributors, like Mahoney and Bayleigh Winkler, a pair of freshman starters in Hadley Dotson and Miley McClure and a duo of sophomores stepping up — Ledford and Blaylock.

"That really speaks to our culture," Tipton said. "When you have heart like that, it's hard to lose."

Murray will host the first round of the Class 2A playoffs on Tuesday, looking to also match the playoff run that last year's team broke through for. The Lady Indians reached the state's Elite 8 a year ago.