Anna Bowers has scaled the mountain, a feat which three years ago looked more ominous than trying to climb Mt. Everest.
The Ensworth High senior started using her hiking boots as a freshman as Ensworth High began its basketball program, taking some lumps. Her sophomore and junior years, she and the Tigers made it to state but faltered in quick first-round tournament exits.
But last Saturday, Bowers was named DII-AA tournament most valuable player as the Tigers pulled stunning 50-48 upset over No. 2-ranked Knoxville Webb in the championship game at Lipscomb Allen Arena.
Highlighting the significance of her uniform No. 2, she sank the two biggest free throws of her life, snapping a 48-48 tie with 6.3 seconds left.
Then she and teammates held their breath as Webb’s All-State Glory Johnson rushed up-court for a 15-foot contested jumper, but it bounced off the rim at the buzzer. The Tiger players rushed onto the court in celebration.
“When I got to the line, I tried not to think about it,’’ said the 5-8 Bowers, who scored 22 points, with three assists, and hit 8 of 10 free throws including the two big ones. “I tried not to overthink the situation, just go through my same routine.’’
Ensworth (27-4) had a 46-39 lead with 3½ minutes left but saw Webb (25-5) fight back to tie on Johnson’s two free throws with 7.1 seconds left. Johnson, who led all scorers with 24 points and 15 rebounds, was named DII-AA Miss Basketball after the game.
The key play of the game came after the ball was in-bounded to Bowers. As she turned to go upcourt, she collided with Lynae Berry, who was called for a blocking foul.
“I had no idea she was there, but I’m glad we got the call,’’ she said.
“It’s so unbelievable to win state,’’ she said. “I was not expecting to win MVP. Winning state is a such a great achievement for our school.’’
“It’s so fitting,’’ said Ricky Bowers, the school’s AD, the boys coach – and Anna’a father. “She came in as a freshman, taking a risk when the school didn’t even exist, and she’s going out a champion.’’
Bowers got considerable help from Nakia Lang (10) and Emily Perkins (8). Perkins and soph Marie Carpenter, who grabbed five rebounds, made all-tourney, besides Bowers.
“We kept out composure,’’ said Perkins, who hit a big three with 7.3 seconds left in the third quarter, reclaiming the lead for the Tigers at 39-36. “This was a lot like our freshman year when we lost twice to Harpeth Hall but we beat them the third time.’’
“It’s unbelievable,’’ said Carpenter, a sophomore. “We tried to double down on their two 6-3 post players. And yes, we will be back (to state),’’ she promised.
It was Ensworth’s first state title in a team sport, but coach David Pack downplayed that.
“It’s great to win that first one, especially for our seniors Anna and Taylor Astren,’’ Pack said. “But the second, third and fourth ones will all be special, too. It’s a beautiful thing.’’
Pack went out on a high note as he next heads out after the school year to become the FRA head football coach.
Ensworth’s boys missed a chance for gold when they lost in the semis 82-70 Friday to Memphis CBHS, a team which lost in the final Saturday to Briarcrest, 68-49.
“We had a great season,’’ said junior Gary Pope, who led all scorers with 26. “Our leading scorers last year (Tavarres Jefferson) never played in a game, never practiced (with an ACL knee injury) once. To go 20-7 and get to state was an accomplishment.’’
“I was glad to be able to come over here (as a Brentwood Academy transfer) and contribute,’’ said senior Trent Wallace, who scored 10 points.
“A loss that ends your season is hard, but in many ways we overachieved,’’ Bowers said.
HILLSBORO, MCGAVOCK CRASH: For the first time in memory, the Nashville area will have no teams in the girls state tournament at MTSU this week in A, AA or AAA. Last to flame out were the No. 4 Hillsboro girls, who lost to host Smyrna 64-56, and region champ McGavock, who lost to Wilson Central 57-47, in AAA Sectionals Saturday night.
ANTIOCH AIMS FOR STATE: In celebration of his school’s first region basketball championship last Thursday, Jeremy Williamson carried Antioch teammate Michael Williams off the floor at Hunters Lane in his excitement after the Bears beat Hillsboro in the region final. The Bears (25-2) host Wilson Central (18-12) tonight at 7 in Sectionals, with Antioch aiming for its first state tournament.
Antioch will have to play without sixth man Brian Clarke, who received an automatic two-game suspension following his ejection after getting two technical fouls in Thursday’s final. “It’s a judgment call, no appeal, although their kid (Darrell Miller) provoked Brian into the situation and got no punishment,’’ said coach Jim Nollner.
CPA AT LIPSCOMB: Inasmuch as its gym capacity was to small, Christ Presbyterian moved its sectional home game tonight vs. Creekwood to nearby David Lipscomb High.
CPA hosted a sectional in 2004 in its only other trip to state, but it was in Class A, which requires just 1,000 for capacity. For Class AA, the TSSAA mandates 1,250, AAA, 1,500. “We were just 140 under the requirement,’’ said CPA AD Mike Ellson. “Lipscomb was very gracious to allow us use of their gym.’’
JPII HOCKEY CHAMPIONS: JPII skated past Father Ryan 10-2 to win the Gold Division of the GNASH League to take home the Nashville Cup hockey championship Friday at Southern Ice arena in Brentwood. Center Ryan Sterrett scored a hat trick for the Knights (20-1-1).
MASON NOMINATED: Christ Presbyterian Academy post player Zaccheus Mason has been named a Mr. Basketball finalist in Class AA for the 27-3, No. 7-ranked Lions. Mason, a junior, helped lead CPA to the boys district and region tournaments and into tonight’s sectionals game.
Three other Nashville players were recognized over the weekend, including Gary Pope of Ensworth (DII-AA boys), Tenisha Townsend of Brentwood Academy (DII-AA girls) and Kristi Nye of USN (DII-A girls), but none won the award. Mason will be recognized during the DI boys tourney finals day, March 15.
BARNETT TO UT: Former Hillsboro High pitching ace Todd Barnett has transferred from Lambuth, where he pitched his freshman year, to UT where he made the team as a sophomore walk-on after fall tryouts. He will bolster the Vol bullpen.
SPONSOR NAMED: The Farm Bureau of Tennessee will be the title sponsor of the state basketball championships next month for DII at Lipscomb, and DI girls and DI boys at MTSU. The agreement is for three years.
CITY CHAMPIONSHIP: Overton defeated Hillsboro (boys) and Hunters Lane topped Glencliff (girls) in the finals of the recent Metro 9th grade City Championships.
TROY FLEMING MARRIES: Former BGA, UT star and Tennessee Titans football player Troy Fleming was married last Saturday in Brentwood. Last month, he signed with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent.