Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Central Girls Face Tough Opener in AAA State Tournament

Article from Commercial Appeal

Central girls basketball coach Rashad Haynes said he doesn't know very much about Wilson Central, his team's opponent in the quarterfinals of the BlueCross AAA state tournament.

But he knows plenty about his Lady Warriors.

"They (Wilson Central) are undefeated," Haynes said. "But for me, it's going to be more about how we play."

Haynes has reason to be confident. Despite having only two seniors, the Lady Warriors have been outstanding in building a 34-2 record, the second-best mark among the eight tournament teams.

One of the top offensive teams in the state, Central won its first 26 games of the year — climbing to the top of the state polls at one point — before losing to White Station on Feb. 5. They then fell to Overton in the District 16-AAA title game before avenging that loss to win the Region 8 championship.

The Warriors then breezed past Bartlett 77-51 to win their sectional game last Saturday to advance to Murfreesboro for the first time since 2013. Their reward is a matchup against the only team in the field with a better record: Wilson Central, the champion from Region 5, enters today's 1:15 p.m. game at 33-0.

"We're pretty excited about it," said Haynes. "It's going to be a great, great test, but the way I look at it is they've had on-the-job training during the season."

Central is the last Division 1 girls team from Memphis to win the state title, bringing home the gold ball in 2011. To do it again, the Warriors will have to press the pace on both ends of the floor and knock down 3-pointers, two things they've been very good at.

Senior Miyah Barnes, a UAB signee, is the team's on-court leader and she gets plenty of offensive support from a pair of talented sophomores, Jasmine Carson and Jireh Washington. All three averaged between 11 and 12 points per game during the regular season, with Carson leading the area in free-throw percentage (92.1) and Washington averaging a city-best 4.7 steals.

The Lady Warriors also have a very effective post player in 6-4 Tijuana Griggs. The players coming off the bench are all freshmen and sophomores, but they're good.

They'll need to be against a Wilson Central team that is led by Miss Basketball finalist Kendall Spray, a Tennessee-Martin signee and a deadly perimeter shooter who has a 54-point game (with 14 3-pointers) this season.

"It's win or go home, and I think that gives us intrinsic motivation," said Haynes. "We're going to be who we've been all season."

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