There was no decisive knockout punch. No dagger. Just a gradual, methodical — and impressive — effort for the Ridgeway girls basketball team Wednesday.
The Roadrunners — making their first appearance in the AAA state tournament since 2006 — advanced to the semifinals with a 53-45 victory over Bradley Central at Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center.
The victory gives Ridgeway (29-3) a matchup Friday at 10 a.m. against Rossview, which defeated Morristown West, 52-47, in another quarterfinal game.
Early on though, it looked like the Roadrunners would be heading home. Behind the play of Brooke Copeland, a 6-2 University of Florida signee, the Bearettes built an early seven-point lead.
But instead of panicking or folding, the Roadrunners did what they’ve done all year, play with poise and execute.
“I think we were a little nervous at first,” said senior Ashley Jackson. “But then the nerves went away.”
Added sophomore Brandi Beasley, who led the Roadrunners with 17 points, “I was never nervous. We just had to settle down and get back to playing Ridgeway basketball.”
Despite shooting just 33 percent in the first half — compared to 52 for the Bearettes — Ridgeway trailed by just three at halftime. A steal and a layup by Oreonna Brown gave them their first lead, 29-28, early in the third quarter and they never trailed after that.
“We decided to help out down low (on Copeland and 6-3 MTSU signee Rebecca Reuter,” said Ridgeway coach Rhonda Kendall. “We went to a man-to-man and then a 2-3 (zone). We were a little smaller and a little quicker.”
And more aggressive; the Roadrunners outrebounded the taller Bearettes, 16-12, on the offensive glass.
“We didn’t keep them off the boards,” said Bradley Central coach Jason Reuter. “Our goal is to give up eight or less (offensive rebounds). And we didn’t shoot well enough. They adjusted to the zone and we didn’t adjust with them.”
Copeland, who scored 13 points in the first quarter, ended with just 21 as Bradley Central shot a miserable 15 percent in the second half, going 3 of 20 from the floor.
Eryn Foster, a 6-2 sophomore, did a fine job helping combat Bradley Central’s bigs, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Tierney Paylor had nine points and Jackson finished with seven and 11 boards to send the Roadrunners into the semifinals for the second time in school history.
“I think we match up well,” said Kendall of Friday’s semifinal against Rossview.
“Their No. 14 (senior guard Janie White) is pretty good. We’ll find a gym somewhere and get a gameplan together.
“But I’m really just focused on Ridgeway. All year long we’ve been taking it game by game, and practice by practice.”
Murfreesboro Blackman 52, Houston 38:
|Houston’s Aysha Harris dribbles against Murfreesboro Blackman’s Meme Jackson in the second half on Wednesday. Blackman won, 52-38.|
Cold shooting brought the most successful Houston girls basketball season in history to an end as they fell to the Blaze (32-1), who are ranked No. 1 nationally by USA Today and MaxPreps.
Houston made just nine baskets for the game, shooting 22 percent.
“We played good defense, rebounded, everything. We just didn’t hit our shots,” said senior Aysha Harris.
Added senior Marisa Knox, “We controlled the tempo. We wanted to play at a slow tempo and get free throws, but the shots just weren’t falling.”
Jaida Roper scored nine points to lead Houston, which finishes 26-8 after advancing to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
Crystal Dangerfield, a AAA Miss Basketball finalist, scored 18 points to lead Blackman.
“Not only do they have five players who will play in college, they have five players with very high skill levels,” said Houston coach Chad Becker. “That’s why they’re number one.”