By JOE CANNON
A day after being the unanimous choice for her third straight District 5-AAA Player of the Year award, Bradley Central all-stater Rhyne Howard has once again been named a Miss Tennessee Basketball …
A day after being the unanimous choice for her third straight District 5-AAA Player of the Year award, Bradley Central all-stater Rhyne Howard has once again been named a Miss Tennessee Basketball finalist.
With current Tennessee Lady Vol Anastasia Hayes claiming the top prize last March, Howard was the runner-up over Houston’s Jayla Hemingway.
Capping her high school career with her best season yet, the University of Kentucky signee is among the Class AAA finalists this time around, along with Riverdale’s Brinae Alexander and Elizabeth Dixon, from Ridgeway in Memphis.
Alexander is a 5-foot-9 junior guard for the two-time defending state champions and current No. 3 team on the USA Today rankings. She has already signed to play for Vanderbilt.
Dixon is a 6-foot-3 senior who is heading to play college ball at Georgia Tech.
Howard proclaimed at the start of the season that “winning Miss Tennessee Basketball is one of my goals.”
“I may be biased, but I think she’s the best player in the state and possibly the best all-around player to ever put on a Bearette uniform,” current Bradley head coach Jason Reuter has declared.
“She can excel at any position on the floor. She is also a very unselfish player. Her scoring numbers could be a lot higher, but she gets just as much enjoyment out of giving an assist as she does scoring a basket.”
The 6-foot-2 point guard is the second Bearette to be a finalist for the award twice, and hopes to join former Tennessee Lady Vol Brittany Jackson as the award winner.
Jackson was a finalist in both her junior and senior seasons at Bradley, claiming the title in 2000-01.
Former Bearette standouts Amy (Geren) McGowan and Paige Redman were both finalists in the 1994-95 season before going on to play for Clemson and Vanderbilt, respectively.
The most recent finalist before Howard last year was former Middle Tennessee standout Jackie (Pickel) Davis in the 2005-06 season.
Howard has led the nationally ranked Bearettes to their second straight 25-0 start, as the Black-and-Gold is 111-11 with her in the lineup the past four seasons.
The lone senior on this year’s squad, she leads the current Bearette charge by averaging 21.2 points, 7.3 rebounds. 5.3 steals, 3.8 assists and 1.2 blocks per game.
She has posted nine double-doubles this season and a couple of near triple-doubles, as well as narrowly missing a quadruple-double once.
The smooth sharpshooter has connected on 41 percent (69-of-167) of her shots from beyond the 3-point arc and .51 (192-of-371) from in front of it. She has also made 77-of-115 free throws.
With 530 points so far this season, Howard has moved up from 14th to seventh place on the all-time Bearette scoring list with 2,262 points. She also netted 151 points as an eighth-grader on the East Hamilton varsity before moving to Bradley County.
She is just 46 points behind Trecia Watson for the sixth spot and is currently third behind Brittany Jackson (2,470) and Jody Adams-Birch (2,450) among 5-on-5 players (1978-present).
According to Thursday’s TSSAA press release, “The awards will be presented to the top girls and boys in five classifications of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association on the floor of Murphy Center on the campus of MTSU on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m. (CST).
“A statewide committee of sportswriters selected winners based on performance during the 2017-18 regular season. Academics and character were also taken into consideration. High school head basketball coaches and members of the media nominated the finalists.
“This is the 34th year that the Mr. and Miss Basketball Awards have been presented to Tennessee’s best high school basketball players.”
Howard hopes to have her entire team and coaches, plus family, for the ceremony, as one of her other goals is to lead the Bearettes back to the TSSAA State Championships, which open the following day.
In the meantime, Bradley will wrap up the regular season Saturday evening when Region 3 foe Stone Memorial comes to Jim Smiddy Arena for a 6 o'clock battle.
Only a half dozen points separated the two teams when they met in Crossville just before Christmas.
The Bearettes will begin their quest for an eighth straight District 5-AAA championship as the league tournament begins Wednesday at Walker Valley.
As the No. 1 seed, Howard and her teammates, who have already securee a berth in the region tournament, will await the winner of the Walker Valley-McMinn County matchup in the Feb. 17 district semifinals.
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