The Greeneville girls basketball team is looking to take care of some unfinished business this week as they head to Murfreesboro for the Class 3A State Tournament.
Last year the Lady Devils made it to Murfreesboro for the first time in 12 years, but they were eliminated in the first round by Jackson South Side. This time they are looking to stick around a little longer and make a run at the program’s first state championship.
“This bunch is going to give me all they have,” Greeneville coach Annette Watts said after Saturday’s state sectional. “I feel like last year we were just happy to be there. Now we know the path. We are there again, so let’s go take care of business and make some noise.”
Greeneville will open the Class 3A State Tournament on Tuesday at 10 a.m. central time in the Murphy Center on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University against Livingston Academy.
Since the 1970s the Lady Wildcats have been a regular participant in the state tournament with 20 appearances in program history, but Livingston has been on a nine-year tournament drought with its last visit being 2014.
The Lady Devils are hopeful that their experience from a year ago has them better prepared for the big stage they will be on this week.
“I think we are really confident right now. I think we have seven girls playing really well right now,” Greeneville senior Lauren Bailey said. “Last year we were just figuring out how to get there. We got there, and then we were like, wow, this is the real deal. I think now that we have seen it we are more prepared for that environment and atmosphere. I’m not even going to lie, it was intimidating last year, but I feel like we are ready this year.”
Both teams had to take the tough path to get to Murfreesboro with road trips on Saturday in the state sectionals. Greeneville turned in a dominant performance to beat Seymour 68-43. The Lady Wildcats made a statement of their own with a 64-43 win over Soddy Daisy.
In the state sectionals sophomore Ellie Butler led the Lady Wildcats with 23 points and Watts expects her to be the focal point of Livingston’s offense once more. That means that Greeneville’s defensive ace, Chloe Marsh, will be tagged with locking down Butler.
“They run a lot of dribble drive, and then Ellie Butler is the player we have to stop,” Watts said in an interview with WXSM. “She does pretty much everything and we have to contain her. Chloe will have that job. But all of their perimeter players play inside out. They all are about 5’9” and are a very aggressive team.”
In that win over Soddy Daisy senior forwards Alesha Melton and Halle Ledbetter were also in double figures with 18 and 14 points respectively.
On offense Greeneville has been led all year by Miss Basketball finalist Lauren Bailey who scored 19 points on Saturday against Seymour. She will be relied on for offense again this week, but her defense and rebounding efforts could determine how long the Lady Devils stay in Murfreesboro.
Marsh’s role will not be limited to defense, and her post offense has been instrumental for the Lady Devils in the postseason. She scored 15 points against Seymour, and against Cocke County in the region semifinals she carried Greeneville to an overtime win by turning in a 20-point effort.
Point guard Anna Shaw enters the state tournament coming off a pair of spectacular defensive efforts. Against Elizabethton she held the dangerous Lina Lyons to 10 points, and in the sectionals she allowed Seymour’s Caiden Russell to score just nine points. Both of those marks were well below their season averages.
Then off the bench sophomore Kyla Jobe enters the state tournament flying high both literally and figuratively. She can plug into the lineup as a defensive stopper, and is coming off one her best offensive nights, putting in 16 points against Seymour.
Seniors Lindy Carter, Tambryn Ellenburg and Dalaina Martin will all be heavily relied on, and all three have proven they can make big plays in big moments.
Upperman has been the bane of Livingston Academy’s existence this season, handing the Lady Wildcats three of their seven losses. The most recent was a 44-37 overtime defeat in the Region 4-3A title game. Livingston’s lone win over the Lady Bees came on January 13, 47-38.
Greeneville met Upperman in the third-place game of the Andrew Johnson Bank Ladies Classis on December 31 and fell 53-38.
Seymour is the other common opponent on the schedules. Livingston Academy met the Lady Eagles on November 22 and lost 47-45.
Greeneville enters the state tournament with a 27-8 record, but six of those eight losses came to teams that advanced to the state tournament. Both Bradley Central and Bearden are in the Class 4A Tournament, Knoxville Catholic won the Division II-AA State Championship last week, while Elizabethton and Upperman will be in the Class 3A field.
Alcoa, who beat Greeneville in early December, advanced to the Class 2A sectionals.
“Our schedule looked like it did to get us ready for this,” Watts said. “We played those games in November and December and January to get us ready for the next three games.”
In the other first round matchups on Tuesday South Gibson will meet Dyer County at 11:30 a.m. On the other side if the bracket Elizabethton will play Dyersburg at 1:15 p.m., and Upperman will square off with Jackson South Side at 2:45 p.m.