Preps: University School of Nashville girls breaking new ground

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 12:15am

After celebrating a win in last week’s sectionals, the University School of Nashville girls basketball team is gradually coming back down to earth.

The Tigers make their first state tournament final four appearance in modern school history when they meet Knoxville Webb, 1:15 p.m. Friday at Lipscomb Allen Arena.

“This is really exciting and a great opportunity for our program,” Dee Davis said. “There has been an enormous amount of school spirit around the hallways this week, and it’s been fun to watch.”

Davis was a standout point guard for Vanderbilt (2004-07) with a couple of brief trips competing in the WNBA. She finally got her team to the state tournament after two previous sectional defeats, including one against Harding Academy two years ago.

USN made it this time when it went on the road and beat Harding Academy 62-49 last Saturday in Memphis.

“Overall, we’ve had a great season,” Davis, who was Vanderbilt’s career assists leader, said. “We’ve had some bumps and bruises along the way, with some injuries, but the girls have really stuck together.”

Seniors Bailey Conner (11 points per game) and Mia Phillips (10) are the leading scorers for the Tigers (20-13).

“It’s our first final four in school history,” Davis said.

Next up is defending state champ Knoxville Webb, which already has won the title three times — 2007, 2009 and 2012.

“They are extremely well-coached and are very good,” Davis said. “We need to knock down a few shots, play great defense, limit the number of shots they get and handle their pressure.”

Should USN make more history and reach the final, the Tigers would match up with the winner of Friday’s earlier semifinal between FRA and Southern Baptist Educational Center. Finals are Saturday.

In two regular season games, USN gave region champ Franklin Road Academy all it wanted and even led by 15 points early in the second half of the second game earlier this month before losing.

“We have grown up as a team, and you can see out on the court how much these girls enjoy playing with each other and how much they care about each other. Whether it’s in good times or bad times, they have all really stuck together,” Davis said.

• Brentwood Academy’s girls (17-10) kick off the tournament when they meet Briarcrest (27-1) at 10 a.m. Thursday. The top-ranked Ensworth girls (25-1) meet region rival Harpeth Hall (19-8) for the third time in an all-Nashville semis at 1:15 p.m.

• Montgomery Bell Academy, which used a late season surge and won on the road in sectionals to get to state, meets top-ranked Ensworthm 2:45 p.m. Thursday. The surprising Father Ryan boys qualified and jumped into a matchup with Briarcrest at 11:30 a.m.

• Brentwood High (20-11) avenged a loss in last year's final with a 45-39 victory over Antioch in the Region 6-AAA girls final Wednesday at Independence High.

Brentwood’s boys team will try to duplicate the feat Thursday night when it meets Hillsboro in the boys final.

Also, Macon County blew past Christ Presbyterian Academy 47-33 to win the Region 5-AA girls title at Vol State in Gallatin and Moore County trounced Nashville Christian School 50-22 in the 5-A girls final at Eagleville.