Clash of Titans: Riverdale, Columbia meet in region tonight

Clash of Titans: Riverdale, Columbia meet in region tonight

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Clash of Titans: Riverdale, Columbia meet in region tonight

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MURFREESBORO

The two-time defending Class AAA girls basketball state champion must avenge a regular-season loss if it wants to keep its hopes alive at a third straight title.

Eighth-ranked Riverdale (24-6) plays at fifth-ranked Columbia (23-4) at 7 tonight in a Region 4-AAA quarterfinal. It is the only Division I girls region contest in the state between two ranked opponents.

“We didn’t play the toughest schedule in the country just because we think we’re going to be at home during the postseason,” said Riverdale coach Cory Barrett after the District 7-AAA tournament. “We’re seasoned. We’re prepared.

“We’ll be excited to get on the road, and sometimes it’s good to get on the road. There is no doubt in my mind that our team is going to be ready.”

Columbia defeated Riverdale 68-66 on Dec. 28 in the Lady Warriors’ State Farm Classic.

The game also features two of the three Class AAA Miss Basketball finalists in Riverdale senior and Tennessee signee Alexa Middleton and Columbia senior Keiana Gilbert, a UT-Chattanooga signee. Blackman sophomore Crystal Dangerfield is the other finalist.

All region quarterfinal winners advance to Monday’s Region 4-AAA semifinals held at Shelbyville. If District 7-AAA teams sweep the four quarterfinals, the tournament will move to Siegel. The season is over for all quarterfinal losers.

Riverdale is the third seed from District 7-AAA for the region tournament after failing to reach the 7-AAA championship for the first time since 2005. Oakland defeated Riverdale in the 7-AAA semifinals for its second win over Riverdale in a week. But Riverdale answered, beating Smyrna 93-75 in the consolation game.

Columbia fell to Shelbyville 48-44 in the District 8-AAA championship. It marked the second time this season the Eaglettes defeated the Lady Lions.

Riverdale’s season has been up and down. After replacing three senior starters, including current MTSU freshmen Olivia Jones and Tyisha Petty, the Lady Warriors were forced to retool their lineup.

At times, the offensive load has been on Middleton and teammate Shelbie Davenport, a Clemson signee. But against Smyrna in the consolation game, the Lady Warriors showed a more balanced attack with Hannah Pendergrass adding 23 points and Deja Jones scoring 15 off the bench.

“We just got back to how we need to play,” Pendergrass said. “We came into the consolation game knowing we needed momentum going into the region. We’re hoping we’ll keep that up.”

However, the Lady Warriors remain confident that it can get back to a fifth straight state tournament. Riverdale has reached the past four state championship games, winning three of them.

“God has a plan,” Middleton said. “There is a way we’re going to do it. And if that’s the road we have to take, we’re going to have to do it.

“We’re not going to back down from anybody.”

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