As they’ve done throughout this remarkable postseason run, the Ravenwood girls made big plays and big shots on Saturday night.
In the process, they made some more memories — and made some more history.
Four days after winning their first-ever region championship, the Lady Raptors added another chapter to their storybook season by locking down their first-ever state tournament berth with a 59-50 comeback victory over Lebanon in the Class AAA sectionals at Ravenwood.
Senior Keira Downey scored 25 points and fellow senior Berkley Byron added 15, including four 3-pointers, to help the surging Lady Raptors (21-11) notch their fourth straight victory and sew up their spot in the state tourney.
“To be the first girls basketball team from Ravenwood to ever go to state, it’s an incredible achievement,” said Downey, who went 12-of-14 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. “It’s super exciting for us — and I think it’s exciting for the school, too.”
Ravenwood trailed by eight points late in the third quarter, but outscored Lebanon 27-12 in the final eight minutes to set off a huge celebration for the home crowd.
“This is the biggest win of my coaching career,” said Ravenwood fourth-year head coach Mariska Harris. “I’ve never been this far as a coach. As a player, I was lucky: I went to state four times. But I told the girls, I want them to experience it. There’s nothing like it.”
Less than three weeks ago, Ravenwood seemed liked a long shot to make the state tournament. The team had lost its leading scorer, Jazmyn Harmon, to a season-ending injury, and the Lady Raptors were also dealing with the carry-over of a deflating last-second loss to Franklin in the semifinals of the 11-AAA tournament.
And yet, the Lady Raptors haven’t just survived; they’ve thrived. They opened regionals with a win over previously-unbeaten Cane Ridge, followed by victories over Dickson County, Brentwood and now, Lebanon.
“It has been an amazing run,” said Harris. “From finishing fourth in the district to this? It’s been unbelievable. I am so proud of these girls. They’ve been through so much adversity — and they just keep battling. It’s amazing.”
As has been the case in all of the recent wins, the Lady Raptors benefited from clutch plays from players of all ages on Saturday. Seniors Downey and Byron carried the bulk of the scoring load, combining for 40 points. Freshmen Lexi Erickson (eight points) and Jaila Lee (seven) also provided pivotal baskets. Junior Taya Lee dominated the glass and freshman Mary Prestegaard came off the bench to provide important minutes for a team with a short rotation.
“It was a team effort,” said Harris. “I could go down the line and name everyone.”
Christaney Brockshire finished with 20 points to pace Lebanon.
Ravenwood senior Kristen Murray, who suffered a sprained ankle in the regional championship game, returned to action on Saturday. She played limited minutes but provided leadership.
“I actually just started walking on it yesterday,” Murray said. “But there was no way I was not going to play in this game.”
When Ravenwood trailed 38-30 in the final minute of the third quarter, it appeared the improbable postseason run was coming to an end.
Beginning with a layup by Jaila Lee just before the third-quarter buzzer, the Lady Raptors reeled off a 16-1 run to reverse the game’s momentum. The surge, which included clutch 3-pointers from Downey and Byron, enabled Ravenwood to build a 46-39 lead with 4:25 remaining. At that point, the gym was rocking and the Lady Raptors were rolling.
Although Ravenwood didn’t make another field goal the rest of the way, the Lady Raptors padded the lead down the stretch by converting 13 of 16 attempts from the foul line in the final 3:05. Ravenwood finished 25-of-34 from the line for the game.
Fittingly, Downey had the ball in her hands when the final buzzer sounded. She sprinted down the floor toward the Ravenwood student section and threw the ball toward the rafters. Seconds later, the students poured onto the floor to celebrate.
“We have the best student section in the world,” said Erickson, who put Ravenwood on top for good with a pair of free throws with 5:21 remaining in the game. “They were loud the whole game, and we fed off them. It was an amazing atmosphere.”
Murray said emotions were running high for her and her teammates as the clock ran down.
“I got chills,” she said. “We have such a young team — and for me and Kiera, who have been for these four years, I feel like all the work we’ve put in has come down to this. And we’re not done yet.”
Ravenwood girls 59, Lebanon 50, Class AAA Sectional
LHS– 15 8 15 12 — 50
RHS – 17 6 9 27 — 59
Lebanon (50) — James 4, Oldham 8, Porter 7, Freeman 2, Mulaski 9, Christaney Brookshire 20.
Ravenwood (59) — Erickson 8, Berkley Byron 15, Kiera Downey 25, J. Lee 7. T. Lee 4.
3-pointers — Lebanon 2 (Oldham 1, Porter 1). Ravenwood 6 (Erickson 1, Byron 4, Downey 1).
Free Throws – Lebanon 9-19. Ravenwood 25-34.