Central stands in way of Riverdale

Central stands in way of Riverdale

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Central stands in way of Riverdale

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MURFREESBORO

It’s an unlikely rivalry that has steadily increased over the past four years.

Top-ranked Riverdale (33-0) has faced ninth-ranked Memphis Central (26-5) six times since their first meeting in 2009.

A trip to the Class AAA state championship game is on the line in their seventh meeting.

Riverdale will put its 56-game win streak on the line when it plays Memphis Central at 10 a.m. today at Middle Tennessee State University in the semifinals of the TSSAA BlueCross Girls Basketball State Championships.

“We both have such a mutual respect for each other, and our programs,” Riverdale first-year coach Cory Barrett said. “What they’ve done over the past few years is phenomenal as well as what our kids have done. There are a lot of similarities. Both of us have gone out and played national schedules. I think that’s helped in the postseason.

“Each year, Memphis Central and Riverdale are both trying to win a state championship, and always have a chance. This year is no different.”

Riverdale enters the contest ranked first nationally by ESPN and MaxPreps and fourth by USA Today.

The series is tied 3-3. However, Riverdale has defeated Memphis Central the past two meetings, including an 89-72 win on Dec. 15 at Riverdale.

Memphis Central defeated Riverale 72-59 in the 2011 championship. Riverdale won the 2010 and 2012 championship.

Riverdale’s coaching staff also allowed Central to use its gym to practice during Central’s 2011 title run.

“We practiced every day in their gym. I think they filmed it too,” Memphis Central coach Niki Bray joked. “That year it was a great battle. We’re expecting it to be another fantastic battle.

“We hope both side’s kids come to play.”

Bray said she’s always tried to play teams from Middle Tennessee. However, few have been receptive to the idea of coming to Memphis to play her team.

Except Riverdale.

“We knew in order to get here, we needed to play schools in this area — teams that were making the state tournament,” Bray said. “Riverdale was one of the only teams that were willing to play us, and be willing to come to Memphis in return.

“We get after each other, but we have so much respect for each other. The coaching staffs are all friends. The kids love each other, and play together in the summer. We expect it to be a battle. Quite frankly, we’ll be rooting for each other — whoever goes down — to finish it out.”

The game features all three finalists for the Class AAA Miss Basketball award — a rarity at the Division I, Class AAA level.

“I don’t even know if that’s ever happened before,” Barrett said. “We will be excited. The kids are fired up.”

Three-time Miss Basketball finalist Nina Davis, a Baylor signee, leads Memphis Central. Davis, a 6-foot guard, averages 28.2 points and 11.4 rebounds.

Riverdale senior Olivia Jones and junior teammate Alexa Middleton also are finalists for the award.

Jones, a 5-9 forward and MTSU signee, averages 14.1 points and 9 rebounds. Middleton, a 5-9 guard, leads Riverale with 15.6 points and averages 3.4 assists. Middleton has numerous offers, including Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, LSU, Florida, Rutgers, N.C. State and others.

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