Ensworth turned physical. Christ Presbyterian Academy got defensive.
By traveling on those successful paths, both teams won semifinal games Thursday and rolled into the girls championship game at the Franklin Road Academy Christmas Tournament (6:30 p.m. Friday).
Awakening from a 22-21 halftime deficit, Ensworth blew open things in the third quarter, and stormed to a 50-33 victory over David Lipscomb.
CPA held ice-cold FRA scoreless in the second quarter and allowed just 10 points through three in an impressive 31-25 win over the host Panthers.
Ensworth's Kennesha Nichols led all scorers with 14 points, while 5-foot-11 senior post star Christina Slay had nine points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. With five brothers, four older (including former UT star Ron), Slay learned the physical part of the game early on.
"They definitely helped me in that regard, I had to learn to play physical pretty fast,'' Slay, who is Ensworth's leading scorer and rebounder, said. "Defense is our team slogan, we have two seniors [Slay and Karen Byner] playing in the post, and that experience helps.”
"Relentless is a word I would use to describe [Slay],'' coach Hubie Smith said. "She really gets after it. We played extremely well in the second half.''
Sophomore Loren Cagle hit a hoop at the first-half buzzer and gave Lipscomb it’s one-point lead.
After that, it was all Ensworth. The Tigers outscored the Mustangs 29-11 after intermission. Rebecca Smith's 3-pointer gave Ensworth the lead for good, and Blaire Smith hit two 3s in the third quarter, which accounted for the bulk of her nine points.
Kelli Smith scored 12 to lead Lipscomb (10-3).
Ensworth is just 6-4 but has played a murderous schedule the first month.
"We lost in the final seconds to Clarkrange, in the final seconds to Briarcrest, also to Southwind, allon the road,'' Smith said. "We lost to a very good Lawrence County in our tournament when we didn't play well. Eight of the 10 teams we've played are very high caliber.''
Also, Ensworth lost star junior point guard Justine Swett, possibly for the season, with an ACL injury.
"That really hurt us. We're playing a lot of the time with a freshman and two sophomores,'' Smith said.
CPA turned up the defensive pressure on FRA and led by as much as 27-10 before the Panthers made a late surge.
MacKenzie Charpentier led a balanced attack with nine points and a great defensive effort against FRA’s leading scorer, Derica Wyatt.
Wyatt scored 13 for FRA, more than half of her team's points, but suffered through probably her worst shooting night of the season.
"Mackenzie did an amazing job guarding Wyatt, who is a great player,'' coach Becky Legate said. "Our team did a great job of following the gameplan, shadowing their best offensive players.''
Twin sister Mallory Charpentier made one of the key plays just before halftime. She deflected a pass, which went off the foot of the referee, then right back to her for a layup with two seconds left for a 10-5 lead at halftime.
Also in this tournament, CPA (12-2) avenged one of its earlier losses in this when it beat Brentwood Academy in the semifinals.
David Lipscomb and FRA will play in the consolation game, 5 p.m. Friday.
FRA won the boys championship in the final game of the night when it defeated Sycamore 54-42 victory. Sophomore Rob Marberry led the Panthers with 20 points.
• Ryan Invitational: Behind Caleb Chowbay, Mount Juliet held off Clarksville 50-45 in the finals of the Father Ryan Christmas tournament Thursday night.
Chowbay, who scored 24 points in a 55-46 semifinal win over host Ryan, was named tournament MVP.
Ryan beat Centennial 50-45 for third place. Hillsboro outscored LaVergne 64-52 for fifth place, and Shelbyville thumped Oakland 42-27 for seventh.
• CPA wins in Arby's Classic: CPA (13-1) edged Urspring, Germany 67-63 in double overtime Thursday in the second round of the Arby's Classic at Bristol.
"They were the No. 14 ranked prep team in the world, we played extremely well,'' coach Drew Maddux said.
Guard Craig Bradshaw had a team-high 29 points and Jalen Lindsey had 14 points and 12 rebounds.