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Riverdale relishes target in girls state basketball tournament


12:00 AM, Mar. 04, 2013 EST

Alexa Middleton has helped guide Riverdale to 55 consecutive wins. The Lady Warriors face Brentwood on Wednesday. / File / Gannett Tennessee

MURFREESBORO — 

Riverdale will be the hunted this week in the Class AAA girls basketball tournament.

No problem, though. The Lady Warriors are used to the target on their backs as the defending state champions and winners of two of the past three titles.

Riverdale, ranked fifth nationally by USA TODAY, is also the lone undefeated team in the three eight-team state tournaments.

"I don't think the coaches are going to come in and tell their team, 'Hey, they are ranked whatever in the country and ranked No. 1 in the state of Tennessee,' " Riverdale coach Cory Barrett said. "All of that stuff doesn't matter."

Riverdale (32-0) plays Brentwood (22-11) at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Middle Tennessee State University in the Class AAA quarterfinals. The Lady Warriors have won 55 straight and are ranked second nationally by MaxPreps and ESPN Hoopgurlz.

Brentwood hit seven 3-pointers in one quarter in its 64-50 sectional win over Mt. Juliet to advance to its first state tournament since 2004.

"We played them preseason," said Brentwood coach Ronnie Seigenthaler, who is in his 22nd season. "We've seen their multitudes of pressure.

"I don't think seven 3's in a quarter is anything historical for them. I think that pretty much follows suit."

Riverdale hit 11 3-pointers in its 74-32 sectional win over White County on Saturday. Junior Alexa Middleton had seven 3-pointers.

Memphis Central, which will play Bearden in the quarterfinals, is the last in-state team to beat Riverdale (68-60 on Dec. 3, 2011). Central coach Niki Bray said being the favorite can be a good thing.

"I always want to be the favorite," said Bray, whose team lost to Riverdale 89-72 on Dec. 15. "There is something about it psychologically. It's good to be chased. You don't like chasing. You want to be the chased."

Riverdale's résumé also includes a win over state tournament qualifier Science Hill (89-70 on Dec. 22). The Lady Warriors were the only team to beat Division II-AA champion Ensworth (69-64 on Nov. 15).

"They are playing excellent basketball, and have maintained that all year long," Bray said. "They have a great coaching staff that have kept that motivation high."

 

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