GPS coach Susan Crownover speaks to her team during a time-out in the girls basketball game Thursday night at Walker Valley High School. GPS won, 49-39.Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson
GPS played 93 minutes of winning basketball in last year’s Times Free Press Best of Preps basketball tournament. This year again at Arts & Sciences, the Bruisers hope to make that 96.
In trying to earn their first Best of Preps title, the Bruisers won their first two games in last year’s tournament and led Cleveland by three points with less than three minutes to play in the championship game. However, GPS lost 59-52 when the Lady Raiders closed on a 13-3 run.
“It was a good game,” GPS coach Susan Crownover said. “Cleveland was awfully good. We had trouble hanging on to the ball late in the game, missed some free throws and things like that. We were young. Hopefully we learned something.”
GPS is back seeking that elusive title and opens tournament play Monday morning at 10 against Arts & Sciences.
Current University of Tennessee softball player Tory Lewis was the only senior on the Bruisers’ basketball team last year. Wing MaryAnna Caldwell is the only senior this year.
“Coach has been on us the last couple of years about needing to mature,” Caldwell said. “I think we’re playing together as a team more and making smarter decisions.”
Point guard Chadarryl Clay leads the Bruisers in scoring, and Simone Busby is a forward who can run the floor as well as muscle inside. Crownover said post player Jeneh Perry has increased her aggressiveness this year. Chappel Sharrock completed the starting lineup when GPS improved to 5-0 by winning Thursday at Walker Valley.
Cleveland is back to defend its Best of Preps championship, and should the Lady Raiders and Bruisers win their first two games, they would be paired again in Wednesday’s final at 7 p.m.
“It’s usually a great atmosphere, especially when you get down to the last couple of teams,” Crownover said. “It’s usually a full gym. The girls like playing in front of all those people. That’s something they don’t get to do a lot. It’s a big draw around town. There’s good competition in it. It’s always good as far as getting you going toward whatever you’ve got coming next.”
Aside from Cleveland, six other teams are looking to foil the Bruisers’ plans.
“Our goal is to win it,” Caldwell said. “We’re ready to do it.”
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.