published Sunday, March 4th, 2012

GPS state champion again

Chadarryl Clay of GPS, center, holds up two fingers while celebrating with her teammates after winning the TSSAA girls basketball division II-AA state championship game at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tn.
Chadarryl Clay of GPS, center, holds up two fingers while celebrating with her teammates after winning the TSSAA girls basketball division II-AA state championship game at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tn.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

GPS 57, ENSWORTH 40


Ensworth 8 12 13 7 -- 40

GPS 15 11 17 14 -- 57

Ensworth (40) -- Christina Slay 12, Byner 5, Be. Smith 4, Bl. Smith, Brie. Smith, Brit. Smith, Pittman, Kennesha Nichols 11, Swett 8, A. Slay.

GPS (57) -- Simone Busby 12, Tory Kemp 15, Perry 4, Chadarryl Clay 21, Farris 4, Sharrock 1, Harris, Fernandez, Spears, Morgan, Crownover, Bandy, Jackson, Williams. Records: GPS 27-4; Ensworth 22-7.

All-tournament: Simone Busby, Tory Kemp, MVP Chadarryl Clay (GPS); Dakota Doss (Briarcrest); Christina Slay, Kennesha Nichols, Kyara Byner (Ensworth).

NASHVILLE -- Having just helped Girls Preparatory School retain its Division II-AA state basketball championship, Chadarryl Clay needed a little assistance of her own.

The Bruisers' senior point guard couldn't carry all the hardware she had collected after leading her team to a convincing 57-40 win over Ensworth in the title game Saturday at Lipscomb University.

Aside from the state championship trophy she hoisted with her teammates, Clay also collected the state tournament MVP plaque and her second straight Miss Basketball trophy. The Auburn signee finished the title game with 21 points, including three 3-pointers, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks as GPS became the first D-II girls' team to repeat as champion in 10 years.

"It feels amazing," said Clay, flashing a wide grin as she spoke. "I accomplished everything I could have and we did as a team, too, so it's just an unbelievable feeling.

"Once we got the lead, we had a sense of ease as a team. We knew we couldn't let up, but for whatever reason we just felt really confident once we got the lead."

It didn't take long for that to happen, as GPS snapped a 2-2 tie on two free throws by Simone Busby two minutes into the game. The Bruisers led the rest of the way, making nearly 50 percent of their shots in the second half to beat Ensworth for the first time in program history.

The Bruisers (27-4) beat top-ranked Briarcrest Christian and Ensworth by a combined 31 points Friday and Saturday and kept Lady Tigers super supporters Tim McGraw and Faith Hill planted in their seats most of the final game.

"I think getting off to a good start was really big for our confidence," said Tory Kemp, who had 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. "In both our tournament games we came out and took it at the other team early and didn't let up."

Ensworth had beaten GPS by two points in the regular season when the Bruisers played without Busby, who was playing in a soccer tournament in Cuba.

The Lady Tigers shot just 29 percent from the field in the first half Saturday but scored 16 of their 20 points on putbacks. But they managed just three offensive rebounds in the second half and were held to 27 percent shooting, making just 2 of 18 3-point attempts.

Twice in the third quarter Ensworth made mini scoring runs to seize momentum. But each time GPS answered with a run of its own to reclaim control. Ensworth (22-7) pulled within four in the first minute of the third period, but Kemp answered with a 3-pointer and Busby's two free throws gave the Bruisers their first double-digit lead at 33-22 midway through the quarter.

After back-to-back baskets by the Lady Tigers got them within five with two minutes remaining in the third, GPS countered with 3-pointers from Clay and Kemp in a 30-second span, and a jumper at the buzzer from Busby for a 10-point lead going into the fourth.

GPS then scored the first six points of the fourth and never led by fewer than 12 the rest of the way.

"You look at the stats and those seniors (Busby, Clay, Kemp, Jeneh Perry) all made big contributions for us," said GPS coach Susan Crownover, who now has a pair of basketball titles to go with the seven softball championships she has won with the Bruisers. "They're a special group and they've carried our school athletically for a while now, since they all play multiple sports. I know what they've meant to our basketball program.

"And Chadarryl is probably the best overall player I've ever coached, and maybe the best we've had at the school, so it was great to see here leave the court with all those honors."

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...

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