No. 1 Riverdale (Tenn.) rolls into state championship game

No. 1 Riverdale (Tenn.) rolls into state championship game

Super 25

No. 1 Riverdale (Tenn.) rolls into state championship game

Alasia Hayes (left) and Hope Hinson after Riverdale’s victory (Photo: Helen Comer, Daily News Journal)

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.”

Added Riverdale coach Randy Coffman, “Brinae stepped her game up. She was really big in the third quarter. There was a sense of urgency out there for her and (Anastasia Hayes). When those two are on the same page, we’re as good as anybody.”

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.

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