MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Riverdale junior Brinae Alexander felt her team was “dragging” a little during the first half of Friday’s Tennessee Class AAA girls basketball state tournament at Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center.
Alexander did something about it in the third quarter, leading a 24-8 Lady Warrior run that essentially put the state semifinal contest out of reach as Riverdale, ranked No. 1 in the Super 25, rolled to a 69-50 win against Hoston (Germantown).
“I knew we were dragging a little bit (in the first half),” said Alexander, a 5-11 forward who added eight rebounds and hit two 3-pointers in the win. “We usually have 40 (points) at halftime and we only had 26. We had to get the lead back up.”
Defending state champ Riverdale (33-0) will play Memphis Central at 1 p.m. Saturday in the state finals.
Memphis Central defeated Dickson County 72-59 in the earlier AAA semifinal.
Riverdale, which is riding a 42-game winning streak dating back to last year, isn’t necessarily breathing about getting to the state finals. The expectations for this squad all season have been for no less than a state title.
“We’ve taken it one game at a time,” said Hayes, who scored 15 points and dished out four assists. “We’re still a game away (from the ultimate goal).”
Riverdale trailed by six early (11-5) and led just 26-23 at halftime but outscored Houston (28-4) 24-8 in the third quarter to pull away.
Alexander wasn’t the only big key to the third-period run. A 1-3-1 zone defense bothered Houston, which had done a good job driving to the basket in the first two quarters.
Hayes, a University of Tennessee signee and Class AAA Miss Basketball winner was still nursing a sore ankle and seemingly gutted it out more than in the team’s quarterfinal win over Morristown West Wednesday.
“There’s a lot of stuff we’ve kept away from (the media),” Coffman said. “(Hayes) has worked her tail off, rehabbing three times a day. She’s up when most people are sleeping, rehabbing. The ankle isn’t pretty at times. That’s a tribute to her. She just wants to play. She’s made a believer out of me on her toughness.”
Riverdale faced Memphis Central in last year’s state semifinals, winning 80-58.
“They’re well coached and they’re ridiculously athletic,” said Coffman. “They’re quick everywhere. It’s going to be a tough task for us. We’ll have our hands full. It should be a great championship game.”
MTSU commitment Alexis Whittington added 12 points for Riverdale, which shot just 4-of-19 from 3-point range but was 19-of-24 at the free throw line.
Destinee Wells led Houston (28-4) with 20 points while Miss Basketball finalist Jayla Hemingway was limited to just nine.