Lady Hilltoppers encouraged by state draw

Douglas Fritz • Mar 5, 2012 at 9:23 AM

Science Hill avoided the big dogs with its first-round draw Sunday, but head coach Darrell Barnwell said his team understands there are no easy pickings at the girls state basketball tournament.

“I think our kids understand at this point if you’re fortunate to be one of the eight teams in Murfreesboro, the other seven are all quality teams that can play at a high level,” said Barnwell.

The undefeated Lady Hilltoppers (36-0) will play Lawrence County (26-7) in the Class AAA girls state basketball quarterfinals Thursday at 12:30 p.m. (EST) at Murphy Center in Murfreesboro.

The draw was also acceptable for Cloudland. The Lady Highlanders (32-4) will take on Clay County (24-9) at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

Science Hill reached the state semifinals last year, beating Clarksville before getting stopped by Memphis Central. If the Hilltoppers can get past Lawrence County, they would play the winner of Clarksville and Memphis Central.

First things first, the Lady Wildcats didn’t lose to any bad basketball teams this season. But they do have some wide-margin defeats.

Lawrence lost twice to Blackman, three times to Riverdale, and once to Clarksville. The Riverdale losses were by 26, 11 and 28 with the latter coming in the region final. The Clarksville loss was by 22 points in the championship of a Christmas tournament.

Barnwell said the Wildcats have good size with three or four kids 5-10 or bigger.

“They have a couple of really athletic kids,” said Barnwell. “And they do a lot of different things, like changing defenses.”

Lawrence County got to the state by upsetting Bradley Central, 44-43, in Saturday’s sectional. It ended Bradley’s 26-game winning streak.

Barnwell said he was pleased to be in the opposite bracket of Riverdale, which lost to Memphis Central’s in last year’s title game. Riverdale won the Class AAA title in 2010, and won this year’s sectional contest by 67 points.

“That’s a good situation because they have one of the top teams, if not the top team,” said Barnwell. “I feel good where we are. We will have to play our best in order to have a chance to win the state.”

As for Cloudland, the Highlanders likely got a break by being slotted in the opposite bracket of Jackson County.

However, Clay County played Jackson County four times this season. And the Lady Bulldogs had just a three-point loss, 54-51, at Jackson County on Feb. 7.

Jackson defeated Clay 64-51 in the district final and 58-45 in the region final.

The tournament semifinals are set for Friday, with championships to be decided Saturday.

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