Monday, March 13, 2017

Central girls advance to AAA final

article from Commercial Appeal

After 36 games, Central coach Rashad Haynes says he's still waiting for all of his girls to bring their "A-games" on the same day. Saturday will need to be that day.

The Lady Warriors advanced to the championship with a 72-59 victory over Dickson County Friday at the Murphy Center. Their reward? A match-up against the defending state champs, undefeated Murfreesboro Riverdale, which also just happens to be the No. 1 team in the nation according to USA TODAY.

"We've got one more chance, one game left," said Haynes. "We're still trying to figure out who we are."

Here are some hints. Central is athletic, tough and talented and causes all kinds of problems with its pressure defense. The Lady Warriors for 16 turnovers against Dickson County after forcing Oak Ridge to cough it up 21 times in Wednesday's quarterfinals.

Jireh Washington scored 23 to lead Central (30-6) while Johne' Stewart — who poured in 31 against Oak Ridge — added 18. But the Lady Warriors would have been hard-pressed to win without a terrific all-around game from Kynadi Kuykendoll, who scored 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to go along with 5 of her team's 9 steals.

"(Rebounding) is about heart," the 5-4 Kuykendoll said. "It's not about height. They have five players; we have five players. You just have go in there and box out."

Kuykendoll's 3-pointer with 3:29 to go in the first half gave Central a 30-16 lead and they still led by eight (32-24) at the break.

"The key was pressure," said Haynes. "The continuous pressure that kind of let us get out and get some offensive creation. The opportunities are there and the kids are stepping up at the right time."

Three-point shooting also helped Central build its first-half advantage; the Lady Warriors connected five times from behind the arc leaving Haynes pleasantly surprised.

"No, that's not something we normally do," he smiled. "We've been consistently inconsistent."

Said Washington, who made 2 of 4 of her 3-point attempts, "We have been very inconsistent but we keep working."

Spurred on by their huge student section, the Lady Cougars pulled to within 40-34 as Emily Beard knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:32 to go in the third. But Washington responded with a jumper before Bionka Massie drained a long 3 from the corner at the buzzer to make it an 11-point advantage and Dickson County (29-8) was all but finished.

Kailey Rosenbaum, Dickson County's potent inside threat, finished with 13 points before fouling out early in the fourth quarter. Olivia Rinehart came off the bench to score 10.

Saturday's 1 p.m. championship will be Central's first appearance in the finals since winning it all in 2011. Riverdale beat Central 80-58 when the teams met in the semifinals last year and will be formidable once again. But Central appears to be peaking at the right time. And it's March.

Haynes is keeping his fingers crossed.

"I talked pre-game about everybody trying to bring their A-game and how dangerous we could be," he said. "We're trying to get there."

Dickson County (59) — Kaelin Roberts 9, Cierra Smith 6, Raegan Purvine 8, Emily Beard 9, Kailey Rosenbaum 13, Olivia Rinehart 10, Sierra Morgan 4.

Central (72) — Brianna Cooks 7, Brittney Ivory 3, Kynadi Kuykendoll 16, Bionka Massie 5, Johne’ Stewart 18, Jireh Washington 23.

Records — Dickson Co. 29-8, Central 30-6.

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