Alex Breazeale has developed into one of the region’s top, clutch shooters this season.
What we didn’t know until Monday was just how tough the Maryville High School junior has become.
Sophomore Miranda Maples erupted for a game-high 29 points, and the No. 7-ranked Lady Rebels fought off a determined William Blount team, 61-50, in a Region 2AAA semifinal Monday night at James Campbell Gymnasium.
Maples delivered a captivating performance, the 6-foot forward scoring off both the drive and the 3-pointer in an all-court display. Coupled with fellow forward and district player of the year Torie Vaught tossing in 17 points, and it was enough to secure the Lady Rebels a berth in the state sectionals.
Maryville’s region championship game with Oak Ridge on Wednesday took place after Blount Today had gone to press.
Had Breazeale not beat back a bout of pneumonia to come off the bench for a pair of big, second-half 3-pointers, the team sitting just a win away from the state tournament could easily have been the Lady Governors.
A starter and all-district selection, Breazeale entered for the first time with four minutes remaining in the opening quarter. William Blount, with guards Tatum Burstrom, Sami VanVranken and Sarah Wilson pushing a relentless pace, was lighting it up from the perimeter by that point. Burstrom, team-best 17 points, would knock down three treys on the night, VanVranken, 15 points, four of them.
With two minutes to play in the half, the Lady Governors led, 25-16, on a steal and breakaway basket from Burstrom.
Maryville coach Kim Bledsoe made a daring move at that point to settle the Lady Rebels. There aren’t many coaches who’ll put their team in a zone against an opponent that shoots as well from the outside as William Blount does, but Bledsoe did.
“You think you can’t play a zone against a team that shoots well, and that was a concern,” she said.
With seniors Kylie Whaley and Carrie Goodson and sophomore Rebekah Singleton closing out hard on the Lady Governors’ 3-point shooters, it worked.
“They had us running around everywhere,” Maples said. “We got in a zone, and we felt more comfortable.”
Maples and Vaught began to heat up as Maryville’s nerves cooled. By halftime, the Lady Rebels had pulled even at 25-all.
Still, the Lady Rebels were unable to shake their rivals. It took a pair of Breazeale bombs late in the third, sparking a 12-0 Maryville run, to finally open some breathing room.
Maryville emerged from the burst with a 46-33 lead, but William Blount did anything but fold after so spirited a postseason run. VanVranken cut the deficit to 58-50 on a breakout basket with 55 seconds remaining. Singleton and Maples combined to go 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 47 seconds to keep the Lady Rebels out of reach.