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‘ALMOST SURREAL’

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools

Winning a state title is a major accomplishment for a high school athlete.

Winning back-to-back titles is unimaginable for most.

Completing a three-peat, as the girls basketball team at Riverdale High School recently did, has been described by players, coaches and administration as “almost surreal.”

They capped off the 2017-18 season with a 77-50 win to claim their third consecutive TSSAA Class AAA state championship at the Murphy Center. Brinae Alexander, a Miss Basketball finalist and Vanderbilt signee, lead the Warriors (36-1) with 18 points and eight rebounds.

“To see those things come to fruition for the third time is a gratifying feeling for our coaches as well as our players,” said Head Coach Randy Coffman, in seeing his players overcome challengers in an effort to meet the high expectations set by the success of Riverdale teams before them.

“They’re an unusual and special bunch.”

Coffman has now led Riverdale to state titles in all three seasons since being named head coach.

In addition, this is the program’s fifth title in seven years and seventh in the past 12 years.

Coffman, Alexander and her teammates along with Riverdale Principal Ryan Nance will be recognized by the district on Wednesday night’s School Board meeting.

“I think it’s a tribute to what our coaches have done,” said Nance, addressing the sustained success of girls basketball at Riverdale. “We’re proud of what we’ve done.”

Nance added, “Through it all, the consistency has been that we’ve had good feeder schools.”

Coffman said the turning point for this year’s senior class — Alexis Whittington, Amanda Whittington, Allison Mayeaux, Kennedy Moore, Brylee Puckett and Alexander — came his first season, in Murfreesboro, when the girls were sophomores.

That season, they proved themselves to be one of the top teams in the nation when they beat a Blackman High School team that featured Crystal Dangerfield.

Coffman called that moment a confidence builder.

He said it was the moment his Riverdale girls believed they could beat anybody.

“Whatever obstacle is in front of us,” Coffman said, “it’s not bigger than us if we focus and work together. That drew us together when that happened and it made us realize, these kids realized it’s not just talking about what we can do, but we can really do this.

“That’s driven then over the course of the last three years.”

The program is 98-5 under Coffman and 75-1 in the past two seasons and carry a streak of having won 34 consecutive home games.

Titles aside, Coffman and Nance are more proud of what the team has accomplished in the classroom.

As a program, they have a cumulative GPA of 3.56 out of 4.

Nance quickly noted there are 23 girls who are part of the program.

“That excellence (on the court) transfers into the classroom as well,” said Coffman, who emphatically described the Riverdale coaching position as the premiere girls job in the state of Tennessee.

All three senior starters — Alexander and both Whittington’s — have received Division I scholarship offers and the remaining three seniors — Mayeaux, Moore and Puckett — have also received offers.

As for the future, yes, Coffman has already looked ahead to next year.

Next year’s team will be led by Aislynn Hayes.

The junior guard was the MVP of this year’s state tournament and will be joined by her sister Alasia Hayes. They’re just two of the “great pieces” Coffman said he has coming back.

Aislynn will give them great guard play, while other potential starters ought to give the 2018-2019 team more size than they’ve had in recent years.

“I’m excited about the challenge in front of us,” Coffman concluded.