The Antioch High girls basketball team knows only one speed – very fast.
The Bears (26-6) have sped their way into the TSSAA BlueCross Class AAA state tournament, which begins Wednesday morning at MTSU’s Murphy Center.
“Our coaching staff agreed early on that speed and an up-tempo game with baseline-to-baseline pressure defense would give our team the best chance to win,” 14th-year Antioch coach Mary Beth White said Tuesday. “As a coaching staff, you try to evaluate early what works best for your team, and that is the way we’ve been playing since early on.
“We had almost the same personnel with 98 percent of our scoring returning from last year. Two of our girls are state champions in track, so we knew speed was going to be an asset for us right from the start.”
Senior Jenise Davis has kept things moving with 16.4 points and four steals per game. The 5-foot-4 guard scored a team-high 23 points in Saturday’s 55-50 win at Beech in the AAA Sectionals.
“Early on, we thought about state, we had it in the back of our minds,” Davis said. “We have been playing hard the whole way. If you describe us with one word, it’s speed. That’s the way we like to play – an up-tempo game.”
In addition to Davis, D’Toria Fowler scores at an average of 11 points per game, and 5-foot-9 post Kierra White leads the team in rebounds at eight per contest.
“We have nine girls who play a lot and who play interchangeable positions, and that works to our advantage,” White, a former Davidson Academy standout, said. “Everyone bought into it early on. We feel like we can wear teams down by the time we get to the fourth quarter.”
Added Davis: “I try to get everyone involved, particularly if someone has a hot hand. I just try to play my role. We trust each other, and we all get along.”
Antioch has made just one previous state tournament appearance (2007). Then, the Bears lost to Memphis East 65-48 in the AAA quarterfinals and finished 30-6.
“I got an email from someone who said Antioch got to the tournament in 1948,” White said.
Girls state tournaments weren’t played from 1930-1957, so that likely was the 1948 Middle Tennessee region finals, which would have otherwise qualified teams for state.
“This year was similar to our state tournament team in ’07 – in that we lost to Brentwood in the region finals, and we had to go on the road for sectionals. Then we beat Wilson Central, the defending state champs, on their floor,” White said.
Last year, Mount Juliet beat Antioch at home after the Bears won the region title.
“Last Saturday, when we got off the bus just before our game at Beech, I got a sense that our girls were ready to seize the moment and everyone was were ready to play their roles,” White said. “I knew it would be a loud and tough environment there, but they were ready for the challenge.”
Antioch plays the last of four Class AAA quarterfinal games against Memphis Overton (31-6), 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“From what I’ve gathered, [Overton is] a very athletic team, and they play a lot like us, an up-tempo game,” White said. “I think it will be a very good match-up.”
• Brentwood (22-11), which knocked off Mount Juliet in sectionals, opens the tournament with a 10 a.m. quarterfinal match-up with the state’s top-ranked team Riverdale (32-0), winner of 55 straight. The defending state champion Warriors have won two of the previous three state titles and are ranked No. 2 nationally by MaxPreps.
• Defending AA state champion and No. 10 ranked Christ Presbyterian Academy (27-7) takes to the floor 2:30 p.m. Thursday against No. 8 ranked Livingston Academy (30-6).
BLUECROSS GIRLS STATE TOURNAMENT
At Middle Tennessee State University
(Nashville area teams)
Brentwood High vs. Riverdale, 10 a.m.
Antioch vs. Memphis Overton, 2:30 p.m.
Christ Presbyterian Academy vs. Livingston Academy, 2:30 p.m.