The bad news is the third-ranked Bearettes (29-2) will have to face Science Hill (33-3), ranked second in the final Associated Press poll and returning all of its players from last year’s state runner-up squad.
“When we saw we weren’t in Riverdale’s side of the bracket, we got excited, but that didn’t last long when we drew Science Hill,” commented head coach Jason Reuter Sunday evening. “Science Hill is considered by most people as the second-best team in the state. We were hoping not to have to face them until the semifinals as least, but that’s not the way it turned out.”
While the girls are preparing for the state tournament, the Bradley boys are hoping to do the same after tonight’s TSSAA Sectional game at “The Jim.” The Bears (19-12) will play host to sixth-ranked Siegel (27-5) for a 7 p.m. tip off. The boys’ state tournament will be held next week.
Facing such a strong opponent in the opening round is not the main concern for the Bearettes as they are waiting to hear from the TSSAA on the eligibility of junior Rebecca Reuter.
The 6-foot-2 post was whistled for the first two technical fouls of her playing career Saturday, both coming in the fourth period of Saturday night’s TSSAA Sectional Game victory over fourth-ranked Blackman. The latter came after she had been whistled for her fifth foul of the night with 2:29 left in the contest.
By TSSAA rule if a player or coach is ejected from a game, he or she must sit out the next two games. However, Bradley is hoping that since neither technical was assessed for fighting, vulgarity or unsportsmanlike conduct, there could be some leeway in the punishment. On both plays, Reuter and Blackman players were going for rebounds and in the battle for the ball, fouls were called.
“We didn’t discuss it today (at the draw meeting), because it wasn’t the place for it, but we have given TSSAA the game film to show there was no malicious action on Rebecca’s part,” commented coach Reuter, who is also her dad. “The officials have to file a report that won’t get to the TSSAA office until Monday and then hopefully we’ll hear something.
“We’re proceeding to get ready for the tournament as if we are not going to have her, but we obviously hope we do,” he added. Taking Reuter’s spot in the starting lineup would be 5-foot-8 senior Baylee Carroll, who has been the team’s first player off the bench all season.
“Baylee is a hard worker and a good player that doesn’t mind getting in there and battling for balls, but the fact of the matter is there’s a big difference between 6-foot-2 and 5-foot-7 or 8,” coach Reuter remarked.
Even with four of the eight teams in the state tournament field being listed in the final AP poll, the Bearettes and Lady Hilltoppers’ battle is the only matchup of state-ranked squads.
Top-ranked Riverdale (32-0) will open the four-day event at Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center at 11 Wednesday morning against Brentwood (22-11), while ninth-ranked Memphis Central (25-5) will take on Knoxville Bearden (24-6) at 12:30. After the Bradley-Science Hill contest at 2, Antioch (26-6) and Memphis Overton (31-6) will wrap up the state quarterfinals at 3:30.
Bradley is making its first state tournament appearance since 2000, while Science Hill is playing in its third straight, having made the state semifinals in 2011 before playing in the state title game last March.
The Bearettes are hoping to be able to practice at UTC’s McKenzie Arena today to get used to the bigger facility atmosphere, but the venue hosted a truck pull over the weekend, so it was uncertain how quickly the basketball floor was going to be reinstalled. “We’d like to practice there tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday on our way to Murfreesboro, but we just don’t know yet,” coach Reuter stated Sunday evening.