CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Riverdale girls' basketball coach Cory Barrett has a plethora of options when his team needs a basket. Yet with the Murfreesboro team leading Bradley Central by four points in the fourth quarter and the Bearettes riding a wave of momentum, there was only one real option -- Alexa Middleton.
Barrett called a play for the University of Tennessee-bound senior, and she answered with a back-breaking 3-point basket with 2:49 remaining to stretch the Lady Warriors' lead to 65-58. She finished with 20 points in Riverdale's 69-62 victory over the Bearettes at Jim Smiddy Arena.
Shelbie Davenport scored 22 to lead the two-time defending Class AAA champions, who are ranked No. 11 nationally by MaxPreps.
"This early in the season, it was a great game for the fans -- a great game for the state of Tennessee," Barrett said. "A lot of teams don't want to come here to play, but I think when you have a couple of the top teams in the state, you need to play this [game]."
Florida-bound Brooke Copeland had 30 points, 19 rebounds, three blocks and three steals to lead Bradley (1-1), while Rebecca Reuter, who will play for Middle Tennessee State, had 16 points and five rebounds. Those two keyed an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter, trimming the deficit to four points before Middleton's 3-pointer.
In a game that featured Bradley's size against Riverdale's guard strength, the Bearettes had a shaky first quarter with nine turnovers, and Riverdale led 16-9. Bradley lost Reuter for a while when she picked up her third foul with 5:04 remaining in the first half, and the Lady Warriors' lead reached 12 on two occasions, but Bradley rallied to trail 34-29 at the break.
"We thought that if we got into their bench, we could negate some of their height advantage on offense," Barrett said. "Bradley has dominant posts. You're not going to MTSU or Florida just because you're big. They can play."
Davenport had seven rebounds, six steals and four assists, while Middleton had six rebounds, six assists and five steals. The Warriors forced 16 steals and 25 turnovers, but Bradley held a 37-29 edge on the boards.
"I knew coming in that if we played well at home, we would have a chance to win," Bradley coach Jason Reuter said. "I'm proud of the girls. We probably lost the game in the first quarter, but once we settled down I thought we were good.
"They could never pull away from us."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.