UNIONVILLE — M.J. Simmons reached the 1,000-point plateau in her basketball career and led the Community Viqueens with 23 points as the Viqueens edged the Shelbyville Central Golden Eaglettes 55-54 in an intra-county basketball matchup Friday night.
The Viqueen win avenged a loss to the Eaglettes a week ago.
"We played with a lot of passion tonight," Coach Cody Pierce of the Viqueens said. "We were down a couple of players tonight and had a couple of players step up and do a great job."
Lilly Brown scored six points and Jaleigha Harris added four as Shelbyville (8-3) got out to a quick 4-0 lead in the opening quarter. Breanna Whitaker and Shelby Cawthon each scored four points for Community (8-3) as the Viqueens scored their first points three minutes into the game. The score was tied five times, including a 12-12 deadlock as the game headed to the second quarter.
Harris scored five points to lead the Eaglettes, but it was the Viqueens who gained the upper hand.
Community led 26-25 with 1:26 left before Simmons, who netted 13 points in the quarter, scored the last seven points in the final minute to increase the Viqueen lead.
After making a field goal at the 1:03 mark, Simmons became the ninth Viqueen to reach the 1,000-point club by connecting on a shot in the lane with 35 seconds left.
For good measure, the junior added a three-pointer just before the half to send the Viqueens into the intermission with a 33-25 advantage.
The Viqueens cooled down in the third quarter and could only score six points as the Eaglettes made a comeback. Simmons led Community with four points, but it was Sammie Brown who scored six points as Shelbyville went on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 37-37 with 2:34 remaining.
A basket by Simmons gave the Viqueens a 39-37 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
Paige Blackburn scored nine points for the Eaglettes in the quarter, including a three-pointer to give Shelbyville its final lead at 40-39 with 7:04 left. The game was tied 44-44 before the Viqueens took the lead for good.
After a Jacey Collier free throw put Community up 45-44, two consecutive treys by Zoey Dixon and Whitaker gave the Viqueens a 51-44 lead with 2:01 left.
With the Eaglettes forced to foul, the Viqueens capitalized on their free throw attempts in the final seconds to seal the deal. Whitaker connected on two foul shots while Simmons made one to give Community a 55-51 lead.
A late trey by Blackburn was not enough as the Viqueens ended with the close win.
Whitaker scored 12 points to join Simmons in double figures for the Viqueens.
Harris led three Eaglettes in double figures with 14 points. Blackburn added 12 points while Lilly Brown had 11.
The Viqueens were 11-of-16 at the free throw line while the Eaglettes were 12-of-17.
"We didn't defend the entire night," Coach Kyle Turnham of the Eaglettes said. "We were very fortunate to lose the game by one point based on our defensive mentality."
"We got owned in the paint," Turnham added. "Simmons has 23 and Cawthon has eight. The area we talked about defending the most was the area where we were the worst defending. They scored 55 and got 31 out of their two post players."
"We were up eight at the half and that is what we were up at their place," Pierce said. "At halftime I told them we had to come out and be better than we were last week."
"We came out like last week, but then we settled down and got back in the flow and hit some free throws at the end," Pierce added. "Lot of big plays at the end and that's what it comes down to in most of your close games."
“The bottom line is they outworked us," Turnham said. "Congratulations to them. They played really, really well and played hard. We got what we deserved."
Community plays Franklin County at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Tullahoma Classic while Shelbyville played Providence Christian Academy on Monday.
Shelbyville 12 13 12 17 —54
Community 12 21 6 16 — 55
Shelbyville: Jaleigha Harris 14, Paige Blackburn 12, Lilly Brown 11, Sammie Brown 8, Lanaya Young 6, Jaz Western 3, Taylar Wessner.
Community: M. J. Simmons 23, Breanna Whitaker 12, Shelby Cawthon 8, Zoey Dixon 6, Jacey Collier 6, Izzy Martinez, Addison Brothers.
3-Point goals: Shelbyville (4): Blackburn 3, Western; Community (6): Whitaker 2, Dixon 2, Simmons, Collier.
Halftime score: Community 33, Shelbyville 25.