MURFREESBORO — Whether they play at 10 a.m. or late at night, you can expect an all-out basketball blitz by the Riverdale girls.
The defending state champions opened the state tournament with an 83-37 quarterfinal romp Wednesday over Brentwood High at MTSU's Murphy Center, not far from their own gym. They moved to within two wins of their third Class AAA championship in four years.
Riverdale was wide awake from the morning start, as it celebrated a No. 1 national ranking by ESPN in a big way with the win over one of the Nashville area's best teams. A swarming defense and fullcourt press forced 32 turnovers, many of which were converted directly into points.
"It's hard to prepare for a team like that,'' veteran Brentwood coach Ronnie Seigenthaler whose team ended 22-12, said. "Occasionally, you'll see a team that good once every three-four years.
"When we made our first trip to state in 1999, the team that beat us, Oak Ridge, was very good, put constant pressure on you. Riverdale is a team like that. You have to play a virtually perfect game to beat them. I was proud that we were even with them on the boards [29-29].''
Four players scored in double figures as Riverdale (33-0) won its 56th game in a row by by making 12 3-pointers and dishing out 24 assists on 31 made baskets. Point guard Tiffany Lewis scored a team-high 23 points and five steals.
District MVP Paige Parker led the Bruins with 11 points and four assists, but they had little else to show offensively. The running clock was used in the fourth quarter Riverdale on top by 35 or more.
"[Pressure defense] has been our MO all year,'' Riverdale coach Cory Barrett said. "We can be trudging along, then we can hit you in waves.''
A strong schedule has helped the Warriors, who have wins over Memphis Central and Science Hill, two teams which are at state and won Wednesday, along with Division II state champ Ensworth.
"We've also played some top 25 teams out of state, along with Columbia and two good teams in our district, Blackman and Oakland,'' Barrett said.
They also have two of the three Class AAA Miss Basketball finalists in Alexa Middleton (13 points, nine assists, five steals) and teammate Olivia Jones (20 points, five steals).
"We take great pride in our defense,'' Middleton said. "Then we go on runs. No one talks about the unbeaten streak, we just focus on the next game.''
Antioch rally falls short
Antioch's season ended despite a late rally that fell short in a 51-45 loss to Memphis Overton in the last AAA quarterfinal of the day.
Antioch made just six of 28 shots (21 percent) in the first half and fell behind by as many as 11 (33-22) early in the second.
But the Bears sliced the deficit to 47-45 on Jencie Davis' tip with 1:22 left. They got the ball back with a chance to tie but fumbled an entry pass in the lane for a jump ball, and didn't score again.
Overton (32-6) iced it by hitting four of six free throws in the final 53 seconds.
"We had lots of chances,'' coach Mary Beth White said. "When you just hit 50% of your free throws (11-of-22) and shoot just 26% (16-of-61), you're probably not going to win.''
Antioch had a 42-31 rebound edge, which included a monster 29 offensive rebounds nine of which came from Davis, who finished with 19 points.
"That (offensive rebounds) was amazing,'' White said.
Overton forward Kelsey Briggs led all scorers with 20 points capped by two key late free throws, as the Wolverines advanced to Friday's semifinals.
Antioch which was making its second state tourney appearance in school history (first in 2007) finished 26-7.
"We were overly excited early on,'' Davis said. "We settled down later on then we were able to get back in the game. And we didn't make our free throws.''
Added Kiara White, who added 10 points, with eight rebounds and two steals: "We were able to swing the ball more which helped us get back in the game."