Heritage suffered its first district loss Tuesday.
With junior Bailie Roberts continuing to heat up in a big way, Maryville closed the gap, knocking off Farragut the same night.
The Lady Mountaineers 77-69 loss at Bearden, coupled with the Lady Rebels 54-49 win at Farragut, sets up one of the stretch run’s biggest games when Heritage visits Maryville on Friday.
Tipoff at James Campbell Gymnasium is 6:30 p.m., with the Mountaineers and defending Class AAA champion Rebels to follow.
The Lady Mountaineers, led by University of Maryland-Baltimore signee Katie Brooks, still sit atop the District 4AAA standings with a 7-1 mark, 17-4 overall. Roberts has pumped in better than 20 points in each of her last three games, including a 31-point outburst in a win over Sevier County. Her scoring has Maryville (11-7, 6-2) just back of Heritage in district play.
Brooks and Roberts headline the marquee, but there’s plenty of star power to go around in this one.
Rick Howard’s guard-oriented Lady Mountaineers like to put it up from deep. Guards Karly Stache and Lauren Burnette have both had big nights this season. Morgan Thomas, Emily Newsome and Tracy Hardiman can shoot it, too.
The Lady Mountaineers are getting a big year from senior Erica Rose around the basket.
It’s a big, athletic Maryville team out to avenge a one-point loss to Heritage earlier this season that awaits. Roberts is fast becoming a Division I caliber player, but Kim Bledsoe’s Lady Rebels are anything but a one-player team.
Meredith Niethammer, a 5-foot-9 senior, leads the Lady Rebel charge alongside Roberts. Very much capable of a big night scoring, it’s Niethammer’s play at the controls of the Maryville offense and defense where games often turn in the Lady Rebels’ favor.
On offense, she’s a textbook deep shooter, with the strength to get to the basket off the drive. On defense, she’s led the district in steals each of the last three seasons.
In seniors Abbie Harper, Kim Whaley and Morgan Cox, the Lady Rebels are a big, fast team that can push the tempo.
Heritage took the earlier matchup, 69-68. With both teams coming in motivated, it doesn’t get any better.