No easy route to AA state crown
Stephanie Sturgis - Press Sports Editor
Posted: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 2:01 pm
No matter which team wins the 2009 Class AA state championship, it will have to run through a gauntlet of talented teams in order to wear the crown.
The Westview Lady Chargers (30-5) and the Elizabethton Fighting Lady Cyclones (27-7) will be the first Class AA teams to play in the quarterfinal round in the Murphy Center on the Middle Tennessee State University campus in Murfreesboro. Their must-win game will tip off at 4 on Wednesday afternoon.
Elizabethton, the Region 1-AA champs, rallied to defeat Gibbs 58-55 in their Sectional game. Just like the WHS girls, the Lady Cyclones will be making their first state tournament appearance since 2005. The East Tennessee team took time to mature and come together after replacing four starters from last season's squad.
Kristen Powell, a 5-1 sophomore point guard, was the region MVP and averaged nine assists this season.
Elizabethton has size inside in the person of 6-2 senior post Mariah Pietrowski who averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Jasmine Jefferson, a 5-8 junior, also contributes in the paint, while Erin Anderson provides depth in the post off the bench.
On the wing, Kamra Fritz, Chelsea Bowling and Erin Kiser can all hit the 3-ball. Fritz, normally known for her defense, scored a career-high 17 points in the Sectional win.
Coach Len Dugger's Lady Cyclones use pressure defense to disrupt and put out maximum effort on both ends of the court.
The Westview/Elizabethton winner will advance to a semifinal match at 1 on Friday afternoon. The victor will take on the winner of the McMinn Central (34-0) vs. Livingston Academy (23-12) contest, which takes place at 5:30 on Wednesday.
The McMinn Central Charger-ettes were ranked No. 4 in the final state poll and defeated third-ranked Upperman, 65-57, in the Sectionals. The Chargerettes use their depth to play a pressing defense and an up-tempo style of offense.
The Chargerettes are a veteran group with five seniors contributing including Kylee Lambert, a UT Chattanooga signee who scored 16 points in the Sectional win. Jaryn Davis is another of the upperclassmen. She scored 12 points in the win over Upperman. The seniors have won a total of 121 games in their four seasons at Central.
McMinn Central also has size underneath in sophomore post Jenna Adams. The 6-2 Adams hit six clutch free throws in the final 68 seconds of the Sectional victory on Saturday night.
The Chargerettes have made nine trips to state in the past 13 seasons, but only have two runner-up finishes — in 1997 and 2004 — to show for the efforts.
The Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats are also led by veterans with three seniors. Kendria Kilgore is one of those seniors. At only 5-7, Kilgore is still a player to be dealt with in the paint. She scored 31 points in her team's 80-58 Sectional win over Polk County.
Adrian West is another senior who offers a physical, inside presence.
The Lady Wildcats are disciplined, patient and willing to pass to the open teammate, but don't have a deep bench. Teams shouldn't be fooled by Livingston's 12 losses considering the level of competition they played in a very tough region.
Junior Shelby Taylor runs the point for the Lady Wildcats, while Alissa Sells — another senior — also offers a perimeter threat for Livingston.
The AA portion of the state tournament will resume at 10 on Thursday morning when the South Greene Lady Rebels (29-5) take on the Hume-Fogg Lady Blue Knights (25-5).
South Greene lost the Region 1-AA title game at the buzzer to Elizabethton by a 50-48 margin. The Lady Rebels won on the road in their Sectional, defeating Seymour 53-41.
The South Greene program is tradition rich with 23 state tournament appearances, trailing only Bradley Central's 25. However, the Lady Rebels are making their first Murfreesboro visit since the 2001 campaign.
Coach Derek Dyer's Lady Rebels like to play fast and apply tight defensive pressure. The South Greene defenders are also quick to step in front of a driving player to draw a charge.
South Greene does play well in spurts but has run into trouble against tall rebounders.
Offensively, the Lady Rebels are versatile on offense with multiple weapons. Rechelle Dye, a junior who can score on the move, pitched in 31 points in the district final and was named MVP of the district.
South Greene was cool in the clutch in the Sectional, hitting all 12 of its free-throw attempts in the game's final 69 seconds. Sophomore Ansley Ricker was one of the repeat performers at the charity stripe in that win.
Senior Megan Casteel and sophomore post Shelby Hicks are also regular contributors to the Rebel offense.
While South Greene has been a frequent competitor at the state level, Hume-Fogg is in uncharted territory. The Lady Knights are making their first visit to the state tourney since the 1927 season, ending an 82-year dry spell. They also snapped a string of 20-plus years without a regional championship.
On the way to ending that steak, Hume-Fogg upset the state's top-ranked team — Marshall County — in the regional semifinals. The Lady Knights beat Christ Presbyterian Academy, 53-48, in the regional final and topped Camden 66-55 in their Sectional. Hume-Fogg has won 15 of its last 17 games.
Region MVP Maria Bagwell is a senior who likes to drive to the basket for her points, but also plays defense and rebounds. Junior Jamie Tate and sophomore Hannah Miller also provide points for the squad.
The Lady Knights ride a defense that likes to jump the passing lanes and uses a halfcourt trap to disrupt. They are capable of shutting down their opponents' top scorers.
In the fourth quarterfinal game, the undefeated Gibson County Lady Pioneers (32-0) will take on the Bolivar Central Lady Tigers (25-6) at 11:30 on Thursday morning.
The Gibson County girls are very familiar to Westview fans, having dealt the Lady Chargers four of their five defeats this season. The Lady Pioneers have been on a huge roll in the playoffs. Gibson County's six postseason victories have come by a wide average margin of 31.2 points per win.
Point guard Heather Butler has been sizzling from 3-point range during the tourneys, while Aubrey Reedy and Heather Griffin are providing a balancing inside presence.
Bolivar, which defeated Christ Presbyterian Academy 54-47 in the Sectional, will try to use its stellar defense to slow GC.
The Lady Tigers, also making their first state playoff appearance since 2005, take care of the ball on offense and have three weapons on the perimeter. Kendra Williams scored 26 points in the Sectional. Shelby Sain can hit the three but is also quick to crash the boards.
The Gibson County/Bolivar winner will square off against the South Greene/Hume-Fogg winner at 2:30 on Friday.
The Class AA final will tip off at 4 on Saturday afternoon.