CPA girls face major hurdle in state tourney

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 7:45pm

Throughout the basketball season, the Christ Presbyterian Academy girls team has met every major challenge.Winning the district title, winning the district tourney title, winning the region title, winning sectionals, winning 22 of the last 23 games.

But Wednesday, the Lions (32-4) face their biggest challenge yet.

That’s when CPA takes on No. 1-ranked and defending state champ Gibson County (32-1) in the Class AA quarterfinal round of the girls state tournament, with tip-off at 4 p.m. at Murphy Center on the Middle Tennessee State University campus in Murfreesboro.

“When you get to the state tournament, you know up front that every team there is very good, and Gibson County is outstanding,’’ said Coach Mike Ellson, who is taking his team to its second state tourney in school history.

“But our girls are excited about the challenge of playing the No. 1 team. We’ll go there and play our best,’’ he said.

The West-state powerhouse Gibson is coming off a 98-44 slaughter of Manassas in sectionals. CPA is also coming in strong with a 63-36 sectional romp over Camden.

The Lions are carried by their two seniors, post players Anna Mitchell, who last month became the school’s career scoring leader, and Hannah Thurley who is playing the best hoops of her career.

The 5-11 Thurley took over the sectional game in the third quarter Saturday and finished with 26 points and 10 steals. “Making state as a senior is a dream come true,’’ she said, “we’ll practice hard and come ready to play.’’

Thurley is CPA’s leading scorer, leading a balanced attack with 11.9 ppg, followed by freshman Meredith Roman (11.1), Mitchell (10.0) and sophomore Emily Boyd (9.2).

Gibson is led by its Heather attack. Senior guard Heather Butler leads the Pioneers at 24 ppg and has hit 105 three-pointers, along with 5-11 senior post Heather Griffin who averages 17.5 points and 8 rebounds per game.

In the last four tournament games, Gibson is averaging 78 points per game. The Pioneers are making their 11th state appearance.

In CPA’s only other state tournament appearance, the Lions, led by seniors Brittany Lee and Kristin Bartsokas, reached the semifinals in the ’05 Class A tourney.

Lee scored 26 points in a quarterfinal win over Westmoreland. But in the semis, the Lions lost to eventual champion Trenton Peabody and finished 25-14. They were coached by Scott Oatsvall, who is currently at FRA.

The winner will advance to the AA semifinals Friday afternoon at MTSU.