MURFREESBORO – Cold outside. Hot inside. And on to the district tournament semifinals with a region berth in tow.
It was a pretty good combination for Smyrna Friday night as it defeated Stewarts Creek 61-48 in the District 7-AAA quarterfinals at Riverdale.
The fourth-seeded Lady Bulldogs will face top-seeded Blackman at 2 p.m. today in the semifinals. Oakland and Riverdale will meet in the 5 p.m. semifinal. All four teams are assured of spots in next week’s Region 4-AAA tournament.
“We had to play hard like it was all or nothing,” said Kesha Brady, who had a game-high 25 points. “We practiced hard and we worked for it. We all wanted it more. We just couldn’t give up.”
Smyrna finished 16 of 32 from the field, including 6 of 15 from 3-point range. Eleven of those field goals came in the first half, including five of the the 3-pointers. The Lady Bulldogs also had a streak of 10 straight free throws made in the game.
“I think they did an excellent job with the lead,” Smyrna coach Shawn Middleton said. “Play with the lead. Play defense with the lead. We did a better job of rebounding. We’re undersized, so try to hold them to one shot. … Just be patient and make them hit shots.”
The key stretch for Smyrna (20-7) was countering Stewart Creek’s (18-10) only lead of the game. After Shaina Robinson gave the Lady Red Hawks an 11-10 advantage six minutes into the game, the Lady Bulldogs reeled off a 12-0 run over the next four minutes.
“We couldn’t lose this game,” Brady said. “We looked up at the scoreboard and said, ‘Oh, wait. This isn’t happening.’ So we came out with more intensity and had to keep pushing and keep striving to have that lead at halftime.”
Candace Gaines had four points in the final minute of the first quarter, Treasure Hunt (two) Allie Bolton (one) and Brooklyn Blanchard (five) had the next eight points in the first 90 seconds of the second quarter. The run ended when Brianah Ferby connected for two of her team-high 15 points, but Brady countered with a 3-pointer and a 24-13 lead midway through the second quarter.
Blanchard finished with 15.
The previous two meetings were Smyrna wins and both by the score of 54-52. Smyrna is a different team with injuries forcing it to adjust its style, and Stewarts Creek also struggled Friday with Jasmine Neal nursing an injured ankle.
“Anybody in this league in the top five, if you get behind it’s really hard to play catch up,” Stewarts Creek coach Jessica Jackson said. “We just couldn’t get shots to fall and they shot the ball extremely well. So that’s not a good combo.”
Smyrna girls 61, Stewarts Creek 48
Stewarts Creek 11 11 10 16 — 48
Smyrna 13 20 16 12 — 61
Stewarts Creek: Brandi Ferby 10, Brianah Ferby 15, Jasmine Smith 3, Sydney Floyd 10, Shaina Robinson 8, Lataya Darby 2.