MURFREESBORO – There’s always the possibility of an unexpected challenge in a big game, so good coaches and smart players know how to make adjustments.
A mix of sleet and snow tested that Thursday in Murfreesboro, postponing the state girls’ basketball tournament and forcing the 18 remaining teams to alter their plans.
Middleton won its quarterfinal Wednesday and was supposed to play again Friday but will now do so Saturday. Westview and Riverside, each with tournament openers scheduled for Thursday, had to wait an extra day to get started.
The Jackson Sun visited each team at its hotel Thursday to find out what the athletes were doing with their unplanned Snow Day.
Riverside will not only start one day later but also gets an 11 a.m. start time, instead of the original 9:30.
“I don’t think anybody was complaining that we got to sleep in,” Riverside senior Bree Linton said with a laugh.
The Lady Panthers gathered Thursday morning in an open area next to their hotel’s indoor pool. Several of them were playing a card game called “Apples to Apples” in which an adjective is provided on one card and each person tries to play her own card labeled with the random noun that best fits that adjective.
They played some old-school card games, too. Linton likes rummy and senior Holly Chumney likes spades, but regardless of the game the girls appreciated the time spent together.
A couple other teammates played air hockey, and a few of the dads shot pool. Some of their teammates had talked about a snowball fight, but Linton and Chumney weren’t interested.
“Just not snow,” Linton said. “I can deal with cold, but snow ruins everything.”
“I’m not going out there,” Chumney said.
District rival Middleton had its first of two days off as it prepares for a Saturday semifinal in Class A. The Lady Tigers are 33-0, and senior forward Rachelle Parks was glad they had already conquered their first tournament game.
“Everybody went ahead and got their jitterbugs out of the way,” she said.
Thursday morning the players spent much of their time together in one room playing the card game UNO. Senior guard Averyale Joy said the seniors were dominating.
Coach James Burkley wanted them to exercise but the hotel’s workout room isn’t built for a full team, so players went down one room at a time to lift weights or run on the treadmill.
By lunchtime Thursday the Lady Tigers hadn’t gotten outside too much yet, but they too had plans for a snowball fight or other fun outdoors.
“We like to try stuff,” Joy said.
Middle Tennessee State made its Thursday game free to fans, so Burkley had plans to ask his players if they’d like to attend. Joy and Parks didn’t seem bothered by an extra day off.
“I think it’s a good thing. It will give us more time to prepare for the next team,” Joy said.
Westview is part of the Class AA tournament with slightly larger schools than Middleton and Riverside. The Lady Chargers are frequent tournament participants, but Thursday’s postponement of a state tournament was reportedly the first since 1968 (when it was held in Jackson).
Players watched a couple earlier tournament games Wednesday at the Murphy Center. Freshman guard Tasia Jones has caught people’s attention in West Tennessee and eagerly awaited her opportunity to play at MTSU.
“Excited I get to play on a big court for the first time,” she said Thursday.
Sophomore forward Lydia Pritchett’s tournament experience was already different than her trip last year given the weather, but she appreciated the chance ahead of her and her teammates.
“We’ve been blessed with a great opportunity here to go out and show everybody what we’ve been preparing for and what we’ve worked for this whole year,” Pritchett said.
Westview’s players were originally scheduled for an afternoon game, but they were still allowed an extra hour of sleep with the day suddenly open after postponements. They practiced at a small gym inside a community center and then had plans to go to the movies later in the day.
Westview must play defending state champion and unbeaten Elizabethton in its first game, the third year in a row it has faced that school at the state tournament, but perhaps the Lady Chargers picked up some inspiration.
They were going to see “McFarland, USA,” based on the true story of a California high school cross country team that found unlikely success in challenging circumstances.
“They’re the underdogs going into it,” Pritchett explained, and then she shrugged and laughed. “I mean, why not us?”
Craig Thomas, 425-9634