Ezell Harding girls ready to test themselves against Franklin Road Academy

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 9:16pm

Starting to hit their stride in mid-January, Ezell-Harding’s girls appear to be ready for one of their biggest tests of the season Friday night.

The Eagles (17-2) travel to Franklin Road Academy (20-3) in a big Division II-A girls basketball game in what may be a preview of teams headed to the state tournament. It is the lone meeting of the regular season between the two Nashville powers.

“I like where our team is right now,” fourth-year coach Dan Carter, who guided his team to sectionals last year, said. “We are jelling as tournament time is getting near, and we’re making the steps we need to make to be a very good team.”

The Eagles’ only losses have been to Knox Webb and to Pope John Paul II, a team Ezell also beat this season. Carter knows how good FRA is.

“They are the defending [DII-A] state champs, and they’re very good again this season,” Carter said. “It’s going to be a game with a lot of defense and two teams playing scrappy and very aggressive.

“It’s developed into a good cross-town rivalry.”

Asked to point to some top wins so far by his team, Carter said, “I’d say our win over JPII, a very good team, and also our win over at University School of Nashville [when the Eagles trailed most of the way]. Especially after they beat us twice last year.”

The Eagles get 30 points a game from two of their perimeter players.

Sophomore Anesha Harmon leads the high-paced Eagles in scoring at 16 points a game, and Tanginique Nowlin is next at 14 points per game. Post player Haleigh Johnson, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, is pulling down about 10 rebounds per game, one of the top averages in Nashville.

Ezell appears headed back to prominence under Carter who replaced Joey Spann (now at Goodpasture). Spann’s teams made consistent trips to the state tournament (in Class A) and won one state championship. That came when the 29-3 Jenny Combs-led Eagles won in 2002, then finished runner-up in 2003.

FRA, which has lost only to Ensworth, Lipscomb and CPA, has won seven straight since its Christmas tournament third place finish last month. That included avenging one of its losses, a 51-32 win over Lipscomb.

Ezell’s big defensive task will be trying to corral leader scorer and former Miss Basketball winner Derica Wyatt, who is averaging about 18 points a game.

Ezell and FRA appear to be two of the front-runners for the DII Middle/East Region tournament title next month at Webb Bell Buckle gym.

The DII state tournament is March 1-3.