Thursday, March 8, 2012

Defending state champ Central falls to Clarksville


There will be a new champion in AAA girls basketball this season. Bashaara Graves made certain of that.

Graves — a University of Tennessee signee — scored 28 points and pulled down 22 rebounds to lead Clarksville to a 64-48 victory over defending champion Central Thursday in the quarterfinals of the BlueCross AAA state championships at MTSU’s Murphy Center. Graves’ rebound total was one off the state-tournament single-game record of 23, set by Michelle Street of Bradford in 1993.

“We got outrebounded in the first half,” said Graves, who is also a Miss Basketball finalist and the Gatorade Player of the Year in Tennessee. “We knew rebounding was going to be the difference so I just boxed out and was able to get the rebounds I wanted to.”

The 6-2 Graves had 19 points and 14 rebounds in the second half while helping the Lady Wildcats win the rebounding battle 39-28. Central held a 19-13 rebounding advantage in the first half.

“She’s a big, physical player,” said Central’s Danielle Ballard, who had a team-high 19 points in her final high school game. “How tall she is and how strong she is ... it’s kind of difficult to go against a player like that.”

In addition to having no answer for Graves, the Lady Warriors (24-8) struggled offensively against a team that is now 37-0 and ranked sixth in the nation according to ESPN Hoopgurlz.

“We didn’t execute against (Graves) as well as we would have liked,” said Central coach Niki Bray. “And we couldn’t find a way to get the ball in the hole. “At times we were stagnant (on offense) and at times we were rushing. It all adds up. When you come to Murfreesboro, you have to bring your ‘A’ game.”

Despite shooting just 38.5 percent in the first half, Central trailed just 24-21 at the break, thanks in large part to its rebounding advantage. But the Lady Wildcats opened the second half on a 10-0 run and Central could get no closer than eight points after that.

“We knew what to expect from them,” said Graves. “I’ve played AAU against some of their players since I was 10. They’re a very athletic team and they’re fast. We just went with that.”

Junior Nina Davis had 16 points for the Lady Warriors, who were seeking to become the first back-to-back AAA state champions since Shelbyville in 2003 and 2004. Aaliyah Whiteside struggled with her shot in her final high school game, finishing with nine points on 3-of-14 shooting.

“It just wasn’t in God’s plan for us (Thursday),” said Davis, who is a also a finalist for the Miss Basketball Award in AAA along with Graves and Shacobia Barbee of Murfreesboro Riverdale. “We just have to regroup and come back strong next year.”

Central (48) -- Danielle Ballard 19, Nina Davis 16, Jalen O'Bannon 4, Aaliyah Whiteside 9.

Clarksville (64) -- Chandler Cooper 7, Bashaara Graves 28, Jessy Ward 4, Tiasha Gray 9, Tia Nicholson 8, Ramaja Bell 5, Sierra Rozar 3.

Central / 10 / 11 / 13 / 14 / -- / 48 /

Clarksville / 16 / 8 / 20 / 20 / -- / 64 /

Records -- Central 24-9, Clarksville 37-0.

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