The Commercial Appeal
How Wooten motivated Ridgeway in 3A quarterfinals
MURFREESBORO -- Ridgeway boys basketball coach Curtis Wooten gave his team a simple message at halftime as his team opted to stay on the bench and forego its break in the locker room. "We're not going home," Wooten said. Junior forward Brian Carter got the message. He scored 17 of his teams 27 points in the second half, helping the Roadrunners hold on for the 40-36 win over Chester County at the Murphy Center on Tuesday.
"It's so many seniors on our team and I'd hate for us to come this far, come down and lose in that game," said Carter, who finished with 21 points in the win.
Along with Carter's offensive performance, the Roadrunners (18-12) needed their defense to silence Chester County in the final quarter after the Eagles outscored Ridgeway 17-6 in the third. It finished the game, forcing 33 turnovers, holding Chester County to 36 points and allowing just seven points in the final quarter.
"These guys are naturally hungry," Wooten added. "You can't coach that."
Something about this time of year makes Ridgeway boys basketball one of the most dangerous teams in Class 3A. Yet, despite a disappointing first three quarters against Chester County that saw the Roadrunners score just 19 points, you almost knew the Roadrunners were going to find a way to win.
Ridgeway is now 15-2 all time in the TSSAA boys basketball state tournament and has played in the state championship game in five of its six previous state tournament appearances, not including this year.
Historically, the Roadrunners were the favorite to win its first game in this year's state tournament even though it only had 13 points at halftime. That's just how good Ridgeway is in Murfreesboro.
"It's a different kind of aura when this is a school that branded me," Wooten said. "This is more personal to me . ... We have standards to uphold."
The Roadrunners will need a similar defensive performance in the 3A semifinals when it plays the winner of Haywood vs. Unicoi County on Thursday evening if it hopes to keep its Murfreesboro magic alive this week.
"I like the fact that my personality comes out through them," Wooten said.