Don't be misled by the final score of Harpeth Hall's basketball game at GPS Friday night.
The defending D-II state champion Bruisers beat the Bears by a 70-56 final in a quarterfinal round game of the state tournament, but the game wasn't nearly that close.
The win was the 25th of the year for GPS and gives the Bruisers a ticket to the D-II Final Four, which will be held at Lipscomb University next Friday and Saturday.
GPS had defeated this same Harpeth Hall team by some nine points two weeks ago, but the rematch proved that the Bruisers just may be the best D-II team in the state and Friday's performance proved it.
"I thought we relaxed a little after we got the big lead, but I thought we played well and hard for the most part," said GPS coach Susan Crownover after the game ended.
"We turned it over too much, but we are a very athletic team and we play into that role. Turnovers are going to happen. We got a lot of second looks tonight. Our games aren't always pretty, but those girls played their tails off.
"All week long, they've talked about next weekend and I kept reminding them we had to win this game before we made any other plans. They were extremely confident coming into tonight's game. I know that we'll have to beat two pretty good teams if we hope to repeat," Crownover added.
The first and third quarters were the most productive for the Bruisers as they scored 24 and 26 points, respectively, in those eight-minute spans.
Crownover started substituting freely in the second quarter, but the Bruisers were still able to extend a 24-10 lead after the first quarter to a 39-23 difference at intermission.
GPS came out in the second half and everything was clicking. That 16-point halftime lead was extended to 65-34 with one quarter remaining and could have been worse, but again, every player on the GPS bench saw extensive playing time as the starters had to watch from the sideline.
The Bears also played most of the players on their roster during the game, but the starters were in for most of the final quarter and outscored the GPS subs by a 22-5 margin to get the final score much more respectable.
Harpeth Hall coach Karen Sutton tried everything in her power to slow down the GPS attack. Nothing worked. Despite that fact, she was upbeat and happy with the effort her girls displayed.
"GPS has a really good team with outstanding players and coaches. Tonight wasn't our best night, but I'm sure GPS had a lot to do with that. They pushed us out of our comfort zone and forced us to do things we aren't used to doing," Sutton began her post-game comments.
"We only have one senior and we're excited about next year, but I'm really proud of these girls because they played hard the entire time and I really think they thought they had a chance to win until the game ended," she added.
GPS senior Chadarryl Clay, who has already committed to play at Auburn next year and has been nominated for the D-II Miss Basketball again after winning the award last year, finished with 27 points to lead the Bruiser attack.
Clay also grabbed six rebounds and had at least that many steals. She still feels like she could have played better.
"I don't think this was my best game, although it was one of my best this year," she began.
"We feel like we can beat anyone if we play up to our potential. We had a lot of energy tonight and we just hope to carry it over until next weekend," Clay added.
While she was the leading scorer for GPS, teammates Jeneh Perry and Simone Busby also had outstanding games.
Perry had 11 points and six rebounds while Busby had 10 points and eight boards. Tori Kemp, another senior starter, finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
Kennedy Potts scored 18 points to lead Harpeth Hall. Jordyne Johnson was next with a dozen points for the Bears, who finish their season at 13-15.
Warner Tidwell had an outstanding game with eight points and 10 rebounds.
GPS won the rebound battle, 42-36.
HARPETH HALL 10 13 11 22 -- 56
GPS 24 15 26 5 -- 70
Harpeth Hall (56) -- Johnson 12, Rutherford 1, Nutter 3, Himes 3, Heinz 2, Tidwell 8, K. Potts 18, Apple 3, Hopp 4, R. Potts 2.
GPS (70) -- Clay 27, Busby 10, Perry 11, Bandy 4, Kemp 9, Fernandez, Jackson 1, Farris 6, Sharrock, Spears, Crownover, Morgan, Williams, Harris 2.
3-Point Goals: Harpeth Hall 5 (Johnson 2, Nutter, K. Potts, Apple); GPS 4 (Clay 3, Kemp 1).
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)