The Riverdale girls began their fall practices as defending state champions, with a 23-game winning streak and lots of questions, the biggest of which was how they could survive with Shacobia Barbee playing and usually starting for the University of Georgia.
They also started the season with their fourth coach, Cory Barrett, in six seasons. The previous three coaches, Michael Burt, Hillary Hodges and John Wild had all won a state championship. No pressure here.
Riverdale opened at Ensworth and took a narrow 69-64 win.
The questions continued, especially about the defense.
Ensworth went on to win a state championship, but we didn’t know how good they were last November.
Two blowout wins followed and then a big attention getting win over national power Bolingbrook, Ill.
Four more wins followed and a victory over state-ranked Columbia in the Lion’s Den followed by a 17-point win over always tough Memphis Central.
Another win and then Riverdale took on and beat state-ranked and 2012 tournament runner-up Science Hill by 19 points in the State Farm Classic at Riverdale. Three more wins followed in a prestigious Atlanta holiday tournament and the winning streak reached 38.
Riverdale then went through the district unbeaten and capped off the season with a win over longtime nemesis Mount Juliet. Only Blackman caused Riverdale any real problems.
The Lady Warriors then swept unchallenged through the district, region and sectional tournaments and entered the Blue Cross State Tournament with a 32-0 record and a 55-game winning streak.
How did they do all this?
It appears to be a combination of tremendous energy from everyone, especially Alexa Middleton and Tyisha Petty, some serious leadership, especially from Petty, great defense, especially from Olivia Jones, Middleton and Tiffany Lewis, balanced scoring from all five starters (all now with more than 1,400 career points), and physical play, especially from Jones and Shelby Davenport.
Riverdale also has shown the ability to “step up” when needed.
Davenport and Lewis appear to be really good at that. Naturally the Warriors have great support and a terrific coaching staff.
Also – and this is critical – they are unselfish. They don’t appear to care who scores and are perfectly willing to share the ball and the credit.
Due to a change in format, the AAA teams opened the tournament and Riverdale dominated a 22-11 Brentwood Bruins team and won going away 83-37.
Tiffany Lewis played the best game I’ve seen her play with five steals and 23 points. Olivia Jones had 20 points, eight rebounds and five steals while Alexa Middleton had 13 points and nine assists.
Riverdale had 12 3-pointers – four each from Jones and Lewis – which was a record, 22 steals, another record and tied the one game record for assists with 24.
RHS shot 46 percent from the floor. Tyisha Petty had 10 points and went over the 1,700 points for a career (1,706 points).
In Riverdale’s second game the Lady Warriors played old friend and rival Memphis Central and it business as usual as the Warriors won 85-64.
After the first quarter, Riverdale lead all the way and it was never closer than 12 after the half.
Riverdale had 21 assists, 31 rebounds and 11 steals while shooting 54 percent from the floor and 78 percent from the free throw line.
Scoring: Tyisha Petty had 23, Olivia Jones 22, Shelbie Davenport 14, Alexa Middle 13, Tiffany Lewis 11 and Brandy Alley had two.