Science Hill and Elizabethton avoided the biggest dogs, but Cloudland and Hampton were not so fortunate.
Pairings for the girls state basketball tournament were announced Sunday during a blind draw at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro. The state tournament runs Wednesday through Saturday at Murphy Center on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.
Second-ranked Science Hill (33-3) side-stepped the bracket of No. 1 Mufreesboro Riverdale, and will meet third-ranked Bradley Central (29-2) in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA event Wednesday at 2 p.m. (EST).
In Class AA, Elizabethton (28-4) stayed away from No. 2 Covington and will have a rematch from 2009 against Martin Westview (29-6). That game is set for Thursday at 2 p.m.
However, in Class A, Cloudland and Hampton drew the top-ranked teams in the state. Cloudland (24-11) will face No. 1 Union City (30-3) on Thursday at 11 a.m. while Hampton (27-9) will meet second-ranked Jackson County (30-3) on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Bradley is 29-2 on the season with both of its losses coming against out-of-state teams. The Lady Bears lost to Millbrook, N.C., in a South Carolina tournament, and to Wesleyan, Ga., in the Girls’ Night Out Showcase in January.
Arguably Bradley’s most impressive win came Saturday as the Lady Bears eliminated Murfreesboro Blackman in the sectional. Blackman previously had just four losses all season, and each of them were against undefeated and top-ranked Riverdale (32-0).
However, in that game, post Rebecca Reuter drew two technicals and will likely be suspended for two games. The Lady Bears still have 6-foot-1 junior Brooke Copeland, who had 23 points and 13 rebounds against Blackman.
“Bradley is big inside, and Reuter and Copeland can really play,” said Science Hill assistant Scottie Whaley. “They are real active players, and they do a lot for them.
“They are very well-coached. It will be a tough matchup. They are very good.”
Whaley said the Lady Hilltoppers being in the opposite bracket of Murfreesboro Riverdale is a good thing.
“Nobody wants to be in Riverdale’s bracket,” said Whaley. “But when you get down here you’ve got to go play, and play as hard and well as you can.”
As for Elizabethton, the Lady Cyclones are familiar with Westview. The teams met in the quarterfinals four years ago, and the Lady Chargers won 51-49 on Amber Rechis’ shot in the lane with three seconds remaining in the game.
Of Westview’s six losses this season, three were to Covington, which also made the quarterfinals. The Chargers also lost twice to Class A entrant Union City, and once to district rival Obion County.
“Obviously we don’t know anything about them,” said Cyclones’ head coach Len Dugger. “But my philosophy is everybody who is still playing is doing something pretty darn good. To be successful down there you have to bring a good game.
“I feel good about the draw. We’ve sort of been on a mission, preparing the best we can.”
In the Class A ranks, Union City lost a couple of games early, and then was defeated in a Christmas tournament by Ensworth by only four points. Ensworth went on to win the state title in Division II’s top classification.
Since the loss to Ensworth, the Lady Tornadoes have won 19 consecutive games.
“They were here last year, and they are very big,” said Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield. “We’ve just got to be able to handle their size. They have size, and we have size.
“They have been No. 1 and No. 2 with Jackson County all year. We’ve got to be able to go out and play well.”
As for Jackson County, their program is well-chronicled. The Lady Blue Devils have won seven state championships, including four straight from 2000-03 in Class AA. They won Class A titles in 2008 and 2010.
This year their only losses were to Class AA entrant Livingston Academy, Ensworth, and Class A entrant Clarkrange. The Lady Blue Devils avenged the Clarkrange loss three times, including the Region 4-A championship contest.
Hampton head coach Leon Tolley said the draw was not a surprise.
“To be honest I expected to draw Jackson County,” said Tolley. “Our team has tried to do everything the hard way.
“Coach (Jerry) White used to tell us if you want to try to win the tournament, you have to beat anyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s first or last.”