Thursday was a bright day for the Ensworth High basketball teams.
Both the girls and boys captured semifinal wins at the Division II-AA state tournament and advanced to Saturday's championship games 9 a.m. girls, 11 a.m. boys) at Lipscomb's Allen Arena.
Junior D'Andre Ferby led the Ensworth boys past Montgomery Bell Academy 80-60, the Tigers' third win this season over rival Big Red. Ferby led all scorers with 18 points and hit all eight of his field goal attempts.
"It would be great to get that third straight, and we've got a good chance to get the win if we play like we did [Thursday],'' Ferby said.
Corn Elder, who last fall led the Tigers to a third straight football title, helped lead his team to within a win of a third straight boys crown. Elder, a Mr. Basketball finalist, scored 12 points, including two 3-pointers, and dished out seven assists.
The Tigers (23-6) stormed to a quick 13-0 lead just four minutes into the game and were never threatened thereafter. Post Tom Kaiser and guard Kamani Hodges scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, to lead MBA (14-14).
"We had a real scare against McCallie [in sectionals] when we got down by nine points in the second half, and we didn't want that to happen again,'' Elder said. "We came out with a lot of focus.''
Ensworth will play Briarcrest in the finals for the second straight year after the Saints held off scrappy Father Ryan 58-51 in their semifinal game.
"Briarcrest has a great team and a great player in [Mr. Basketball finalist] Austin Nichols,'' Elder said. "We'll try to pressure their guards and hopefully get into an up-tempo game.''
Nichols scored 20 points and hauled down 13 rebounds to lead Briarcrest to a win over scrappy Father Ryan which got close late but could never get over the hump. Jamonte Graham again led the Irish with 20 points and six rebounds and six assists before their season ended at 18-9.
"Any great team that has a great player is tough to go against,'' coach Ricky Bowers said of Briarcrest. "[Nichols] has offers from Duke and North Carolina, and that tells me a lot.''
It took Ensworth's girls considerably longer to heat up in their semifinal game against Harpeth Hall. Once they did, the Tigers had their way in the second half en route to a 54-40 victory.
Miss Basketball finalists Kennesha Nichols and Justice Swett again led the way with 20 and 15 points, respectively, and Swett was dominant on the boards with 11 rebounds, six offensive.
The two brought a box of cupcakes into the press room for coach Hubie Smith's on his 52nd birthday. It already was happy enough with his team's big win.
"Sometimes the way we play makes me feel a lot older than 52,'' he said. "We had some choice words at halftime, and we responded. We're not a great outside shooting team, but our defense sets up our offense for a lot of transition baskets.''
The Tigers broke out of a 19-19 halftime tie and won going away. Guard Brittany Smith's 3-pointer from the corner keyed a 12-1 run that gave Ensworth a commanding 35-24 lead.
"We played very good defense the second half,'' Nichols said.
Added Swett: "We just weren't executing the first half, and we did much better with that after halftime.''
Raleigh Potts had 15 and Kennedy Potts added 10 with four assists for Harpeth Hall (19-9).
"Our weaknesses are [Ensworth's] strengths with the inside firepower they have,'' Harpeth Hall coach Cindy Gough said. "They beat us by 32 and 29 points in the regular season. But we played a very inspired game against them [Thursday], and I'm very proud of our team.''
Ensworth, the 2008 and 2010 state champions, have been in the finals five of the last six years.
The Tigers (25-1), winners of 25 straight, will play Brentwood Academy on Saturday game for the championship.
Ensworth won at BA 33-27, then at home 55-45 during the regular season.
Brentwood Academy's defense was overwhelming in a stunningly easy 51-23 win over Briarcrest in Thursday's opener. The Eagles took a 26-9 halftime lead and held the Saints without a field goal (0-of-16).
BA post Hailey Pearson had a monster game with 14 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Guards Jai Murphy had 14 points, and Maren Kreid had nine points and five assists. Briarcrest finished three-of-42 from the field, an icy seven percent.
• Braxton Blackwell poured in 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Christ Presbyterian Academy (33-2) beat East Nashville for the fourth time this season, a 65-36 romp for the Region 5-AA boys title Thursday night at Vol State in Gallatin.
• Brentwood High (28-4) won the boys Region 6-AAA championship for the second straight year with a 56-36 victory over Hillsboro at Independence High. The Bruins joined their girls team, which won the region title the night before, and rebounded from a 0-2 showing in the district tournament.
(all games 7 p.m., Saturday)
Mt. Juliet at Brentwood High
Antioch at Beech
Christ Presbyterian Academy at Page
Nashville Christian School at Summertown
(all games 7 p.m., Monday)
Wilson Central at Brentwood High
Hillsboro at Dickson County
Spring Hill at Christ Presbyterian Academy
East Nashville at Cheatham County
Division II-AA State tournament
(at Allen Arena, Lipscomb University)
Girls: Brentwood Academy 51, Briarcrest 23; Ensworth 54, ‹Harpeth Hall 40.
Boys: Briarcrest 58, ‹Father Ryan 51; Ensworth 80, ‹MBA 60.
Girls: Brentwood Academy vs. Ensworth, 9 a.m.
Boys: Briarcrest vs. Ensworth, 11 a.m.
Division II-A State tournament
(at Allen Arena, Lipscomb University)
Girls: 10 a.m. ‹SBEC vs. Franklin Road Academy; 1:15 p.m.‹University School
of Nashville vs. Webb.
Boys: 11:30 a.m. ‹Lausanne vs. Franklin Road Academy; 2:45 ECS vs. Webb.
Finals: Saturday, 1 p.m., girls, 3 p.m., boys.