Here we go again.
Brentwood Academy and Ensworth will clash for the fourth straight year in the state championship.
The Division II-AA East/Middle Region rivals will meet in the girls final for the seventh time in the last nine seasons.
Ensworth (28-0) has won four of the last six, including last year.
BA (22-8) earned a return trip to the championship with a 60-38 semifinal win over Briarcrest at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena on Friday.
Ensworth punched its ticket with a 66-29 rout of Baylor as North Carolina State signee Dontavia Waggoner scored 20 points and made five steals.
“I never want to look too far ahead, but I had a pretty good feeling (early in the season) that we’d be right in this spot with them so we’re excited,” said BA point guard Blair Schoenwald, a Belmont signee who scored 10 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
BA and Ensworth will tip off at 5 p.m. Saturday.
BA lost to Ensworth twice during the regular season, but the Lady Eagles will have two new players in the rematch.
Ravenwood transfers Jaz Harmon and Savannah Dews made their BA debuts against Briarcrest (25-6) after missing the first 29 games of the season.
They had to wait one year since their last game at Ravenwood to regain their eligibility according to the TSSAA transfer rule.
“It felt really, really good and I think being able to practice as well with the team I built a really strong bond with the girls,” Harmon said. “I don’t think there’s anybody else I’d rather be out there with.”
The Georgetown signee led the Lady Eagles with 11 points off the bench.
When BA beat Baylor in last week’s quarterfinal, Harmon realized she would finally get on the court after cheering for her new teammates all season on the bench.
“With like five minutes left in the (Baylor) game, I just broke down crying and I was like this is really going to be real,” Harmon said. “So, I think that was my ultimate moment where I just started preparing.”
Harmon, who surpassed the 1,000 career points milestone last season, tried to keep a positive outlook while she was ineligible.
“When I first found out, it was really heartbreaking but as the season went on my teammates were really supportive and so was Coach (Rhonda) Brown,” Harmon said. “I was really confident in the team that we were going to make it this far and that I was going to be able to see the floor.”
Dews, a junior center, added three points in 10 minutes off the bench.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” Schoenwald said of Harmon and Dews’ return. “Any team that can gain two players like that is a huge bonus. Obviously, we showed that today with them, they really helped us out, but honestly our team has been great all year.”
Briarcrest struggled offensively, hitting only 28% of its shots from the floor on 15 of 54 shooting.
“We sort of played a matchup zone,” BA point guard Millie Brown said. “We clogged the paint to make sure that nobody (could make) middle drives.”
Ensworth routed BA 66-35 in January, but it was much closer in a February rematch as the Lady Tigers held on for a 55-52 victory.
“Obviously, there was a dramatic change in the first and second game just based off of the score,” Schoenwald said. “Our biggest thing was getting stops and turning those into points. Ensworth is a really good team in transition and our biggest goal was to stop them in that so we’re going to have to do the same thing again.”
Schoenwald has overcome two ACL injuries and a shoulder injury during her career to reach her fifth final.
“I’ll play without an arm,” Schonenwald kidded.
Ensworth attacks with relentless defensive pressure, feasting on turnovers.
“They have four or five Power Five kids,” Rhonda Brown said. “I mean, usually if you have one, you’re considered pretty good. They’re really good if you let them do what they’re good at. They’re athletic, they’re talented, they play well together and that’s why they’re undefeated.”
Ensworth boasts two Miss Basketball finalists in Waggoner and Kaiya Wynn, who scored 13 points against Baylor.
Harmon declined to say why she transferred from Ravenwood to BA.
“That’s a very long story,” Harmon said. “There’s not really a short version. All I’m going to say is I think it was God’s plan for me to be at BA and I think it was the best thing. And I don’t think I would change it even if I was able to have my senior season although it was extremely heartbreaking for me to have to sit out this entire time.
“I’m very grateful that I’m where I am right now and I wouldn’t change it.”
Game shape is tougher than practice shape, but Harmon said it wasn’t as difficult adjusting as she thought it would be.
BA outrebounds Briarcrest 42-27 and none of the Lady Saints scored more than six points.
“We didn’t shut down the drives and we didn’t rebound the ball good at all,” Briarcrest coach Lee Smith said. “They do a good job of getting in the passing lanes. We weren’t attacking gaps.”