It is a long way to March but the defending Tennessee 3A (large class) and MaxPreps and USA Today mythical national high school champions has begun the long trek back to hold on to the titles won last season. While we will briefly look at the action, in this piece Riverdale’s 2017-2018 team will be put under the microscope.
The event was sponsored by National Exposure Basketball (NEB) and Riverdale High School and held November 24 and 25 at Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It brought together the 2016-2017 large school champions of Florida (Boca Raton), Georgia (McEachern) and Tennessee (Riverdale) and were joined by Alabama 6A (second largest class) runners-up (Hazel Green) in a pre-set two-game format. That such a group of reigning high school champions got together at one site to start off the next year may have been a first in girls’ basketball.
Unfortunately, the play was more like what you would expect early in the year with teams not always putting their most polished performances on display.
Quick review of the action
On Friday, Riverdale eked out a 51-49 win (decent level of play with Riverdale leading more than trailing in a close contest) over Hazel Green while McEachern held off Boca Raton 53-49 in an ugly affair. On Saturday, Hazel Green beat Boca Raton 55-45 while Riverdale (looking more like a national number one) blew out McEachern 82-38.
Riverdale Coach weighs in…
Riverdale Coach Randy Coffman commented on his team’s two games. “Game one was a subpar performance by us. I was really proud of how our kids responded in game two of the event.”
Coach Coffman was kind enough to answer a few questions about the upcoming season.
How did you and your team react to being named top US high school team by MaxPreps and USA Today last spring? “We were quite honored & humbled to be thought of favorably by basketball experts across the nation.”
Given that you return so many players from last year, does that put a lot of pressure on the team for this season and if so, how are you coping with it? “We continually try to challenge our players and program to use any accomplishment as a stepping stone to reach higher, to set the bar higher.”
You lost one of the top players in the USA (Anastasia Hayes, now at Tennessee) to graduation. How will that change how the team will function offensively and defensively? “Anastasia is a dynamic player, with a ‘hate to lose’ mentality. Those types of players you don’t just replace. I do think that our balance and depth, along with our experience and toughness can make this year’s group special in their own unique way as well.”
Looking at Riverdale’s starting five (see photo above to match number with name)…
(32) Brinae Alexander, 5-9, forward, 2018
Physical attacking player; blue collar mentality willing to hit boards; operates baseline to basket; will shoot from perimeter out to beyond arc; has to carry burden inside even though not a true post and not that tall; Vanderbilt signee.
(11) Aislynn Hayes, 5-7, point guard, 2019
Field general mentality with good handles and fine court vision; looks to pass first and score second; strong on ball defender; receiving major D1 offers
(1) Alasia Hayes, 5-7, shooting guard, 2020
Quality athlete who can turn defense into offense; shoots the three well off the pass and can take it to the hole; receiving major D1 offers.
(25) Alexis Whittington, 5-11, small forward, 2018
Physical, moves well without the ball; shoots the three or attacks the basket; Middle Tennessee signee
(12) Amanda Whittington, 5-10, small forward, 2018
Looks to attack the basket but will shoot if left open; picks her spots well as secondary scoring threat; Middle Tennessee signee.
Offensively, the team will play a lot of five out (lacking an experienced, quality center) and has the horses to post a large number of points. The Riverdale bench can also provide offense and add some height (although lacking experience). The team defense will need to step up. Offensively the Warriors will need to learn to each carry more of the load as no one player has yet emerged as a ‘go to’ person (a commodity Riverdale has had for years). With a tough schedule including a trip to Nike TOC in Arizona in December, there are a lot of miles to be logged before another title can be celebrated. An upcoming game with defending Kentucky champion and currently nationally ranked Mercer County will be a stern test this weekend.
A few players from other teams at the event need to be recognized.
Jasmine Carson, 5-10, shooting guard, 2018, McEachern High School (Powder Springs, Georgia)
Carson, a Georgia Tech signee, moved from Memphis, Tennessee, to be closer future Tech teammates and coaches and get a head start on her college career. A good athlete with a sweet stroke to beyond the arc, she posted 16 points in her team’s win versus Boca Raton.
Caitlin Hose, 5-9, guard, 2018, Hazel Green (Alabama) High School
A Georgia signee, Hose carries a heavy load for Hazel Green. She usually initiates and directs the offense, goes to the wing to score her share of the points and given her team’s lack of size, helps with the rebounding.
Audrey Ramsey, 5-6, point guard, 2019, Boca Raton (Florida) High School
Ramsey is a bit diminutive in stature but plays without fear. Versus McEachern, she was repeatedly doubled on the press but usually broke clear. Offensively, she looks to shoot the three but will drive some. Adding some bulk/muscle would probably add to her recruiting potential as she is currently susceptible to physical play. In her team’s loss to McEachern, she led her team with 14 points.