The Blackman girls’ basketball team made history today with the school’s first ever state title in any sport with a 65-44 win over Ridgeway in the TSSAA BlueCross Basketball Class AAA title game at the Murphy Center. The Lady Blaze finished the season with a 34-1 record, and the No. 1 ranking in nation, according to USA Today and MaxPreps. It is also the fourth time in the last five seasons, a girls’ basketball team from Rutherford County has won the state title.
“It’s an honor, and we just work everyday to get to this point,” Lady Blaze junior post player Alex Johnson said after the win. “Just to be able to hold that championship ball and that is what we came here for.”
Early in the first quarter, the Lady Blaze broke a 2-2 tie, and it went on an 8-0 to break the game open. It was led by Class AAA Miss Basketball finalist and sophomore guard, Crystal Dangerfield, as she hit back-to-back jumpers for Blackman during the run. By the end of the opening quarter, The Lady Roadrunners closed the cap to 13-7 after a basket by sophomore point guard Brandi Beasley.
However, it was more of the same in the second quarter for the Lady Blaze, and it went on another 7-0 run to expand the advantage to 27-11, which included a huge trey by junior post player Alex Johnson. By the end of the first half, Blackman led 31-16.
After the break, Ridgeway hit a three-pointer to start off the third quarter and cut the Lady Blaze lead to 31-19 and after a two-pointer by Dangerfield, the Roadrunners scored again to make it 33-21. Then, Blackman went on 9-2 run to once again break the game open, which included a three-pointer by junior guard KK Williams. After three quarters, Blackman led 42-23.
The Lady Blaze was led in the scoring column by Dangerfield and Johnson with 19 points, and junior guard Meme Johnson added 14 in the victory. All three players were named to the All-Tournament team, and Dangerfield was named MVP of the event.
After the game, the Class AAA Miss Basketball award was announced, and it was well-represented by two players from Rutherford County, Dangerfield and Riverdale senior guard Alexa Middleton to go along with Columbia Central senior guard/forward Kelana Gilbert. The winner of this year’s award was Middleton.
During Blackman’s run to the state title, it won the District 7 Championship, the Region 4 Championship, and during the state tournament it defeated Houston (52-28) and Mt. Juliet (55-46) in the quarters and semifinals respectively.
With the win, the Lady Blaze finished off the season with a 20-game winning streak. Its only loss this season was on Jan. 1 against Missouri powerhouse, Incarnate Word Academy, during a tournament in Florida. However, a few weeks later, the Lady Blaze got payback and it defeated them on Jan. 25 during an event in Kentucky.
“We have been staying together and picking each other up,” Johnson said.
“We have sticking together as one team and listening to our coaches,” Dangerfield added.
The amazing thing about this team is the youth on it. The Lady Blaze only have one senior on the team, guard Micah Norris, so this could be the start of a nice run for the squad since everyone will be back next season except her as they try to repeat as champions in 2015.
Also, Blackman became the third Rutherford County school in a row and fourth out of the last five seasons to take home the Class AAA state title. It was the Riverdale Lady Warriors, who won the title in 2012 and 2013. The success speaks to the quality of girls’ basketball here in the area, especially since last season Riverdale finished as the best team in the nation
“It gets us battle tested, because everybody in Murfreesboro has worked together since we play AAU together,” Dangerfield said. “Playing each other during the season really helps.