Previewing the AAA girls state basketball tournament
The AAA girls state basketball tournament begins Wednesday at Middle Tennessee State's Murphy Center, with Ridgeway and Houston representing Shelby County. Here is a look at each team's first-round matchup.
What to watch for: Kendall has molded the Roadrunners into a very dangerous unit over the last few seasons. Ridgeway is athletic and skilled and won't beat itself. Sophomore Brandi Beasley and junior Alexus Bryson -- one of the area's assist leaders during the regular season -- form a potent backcourt that will have to handle Bradley Central's pressure. Ashley Jackson is a consistent double-double performer, and promising sophomore Eryn Foster has great hands and a nice touch in the paint. Junior guard Oreonna Brown had 15 points and nine rebounds in the sectional win over Bolton, and she and junior Breounna Humphrey will be expected to contribute off the bench. Bradley Central, which has won five state championships and is making its 26th tournament appearance, can shoot the 3 but is strongest in the paint, where 6-2 senior Brooke Copeland (a Florida signee) and 6-3 senior Rebecca Reuter form an imposing tandem.
Houston (26-7) vs. Murfreesboro Blackman (31-1)
Time: 2:45 p.m. Wednesday
Coaches: Houston, Chad Becker; Blackman, Chad Hibdon
Road to state: Houston beat Overton, 45-41, in region quarterfinals, beat Whitehaven, 56-45, in region semifinals and beat Ridgeway, 36-27, in region championship before beating Dyer County, 50-33, in the sectional. Blackman beat Franklin County, 55-8, in region quarterfinals, beat Murfreesboro Riverdale, 82-66, in region semifinals and beat Murfreesboro Oakland, 41-33, region championship game before beating Cumberland County, 72-39, in the sectional.
What to watch for: Could the Mustangs have drawn a tougher situation for the their first-ever state tournament game? Blackman enters the game ranked first in the nation according to MaxPreps and USA Today and will have a huge homecourt advantage as well. And the two teams played earlier this season, with Blackman winning 61-37 in the Ezell-Harding Tournament on Dec. 20. Blackman's star is lightning-quick sophomore guard Crystal Dangerfield, a Miss Basketball finalist who is ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the nation in the class of 2016. The Mustangs don't have anyone on that individual level, but they do have a cohesive squad that has played very well down the stretch, including two victories over Ridgeway. Sophomore Jaida Roper and senior Aysha Harris will need to have big games and senior point guard Marisa Knox, who started for Central's state championship-winning team two years ago, will need to help the Mustangs control the tempo. March is the season for upsets, and Houston will need a big one Wednesday in order to keep the best season in school history alive.