His Lady ’Toppers (28-7) will face Stone Memorial (29-4) in the quarterfinals of the TSSAA state girls’ basketball championships on Wednesday, 11 a.m., at Middle Tennessee State University.
After two games, the first won 52-41 by the Lady ’Toppers and the second a 64-40 victory by Stone Memorial, Whaley has a strong impression of the Lady Panthers.
“They’re really good, one of the most skilled teams offensively that we’ve played all year,” Whaley said. “They can legitimately score. Emma Capps is a great player. She’s going to Gardner-Webb along with Alasia (Smith). Coach (Mike) Buck’s daughter (Mattie) is a great shooter and they have other kids who can really shoot it.”
While it made preparation easier not having to scramble for film, Whaley doesn’t feel the matchup with Stone is any better or worse than it would have been with another opponent. It’s not like Science Hill is an easy team for Stone to prepare for, making it to the state quarterfinals for a second straight year.
In the win over Stone Memorial, Jeila Greenlee led the way with 16 points, going 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Alasia Smith scored 11 points, followed by Nae Marion with 10 points and Jasmin Myers with nine. Marion was the only player to reach double figures in the loss with 15 points.
For Stone Memorial, Tessa Miller, Annah Goss and Capps each scored 12 points.
For the season, Smith, the Big Seven Conference co-player of the year along with Daniel Boone’s Jaycie Jenkins, has averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and four steals per game. She said the Lady Hilltoppers are headed to Murfreesboro with confidence.
“We’re getting past the first round,” said Smith. “I know that.”
Smith has a good supporting cast with outside shooters Erin Egerbrecht and Greenlee, although the team’s most important quality is the never-give-up attitude as witnessed in their 49-47 sectional win over Bearden.
“They always show resiliency at the end and never quit,” Whaley said. “They do whatever it takes to win. Our schedule has prepared us to get to this point. We’ve played one of the toughest schedules in the state, but so has Stone Memorial.
“If look at the teams left, Maryville, Lebanon, Bradley (Central), Arlington have all played really difficult kids to challenge our kids. It’s paid off in those late-game situations where our kids haven’t panicked and made plays when they’ve had to.”
Science Hill got big efforts from a number of players, including Kat Patton and Aliyanna Hill, in the Bearden win. Smith, a senior, is truly the heart and soul of the team and it showed with an 18-point, 10-rebound performance.
“Alasia’s one of the best players to ever play here,” Whaley said. “She’s going to leave here with over 1,800 points and close to 1,000 rebounds. Teams have to rely so much on guarding Alasia that it opens up shots for our other kids. We’ve got some great shooters and other great kids who play well together. They’re just a great group of kids, who play hard, like each other and it’s a privilege to be able to coach them.”