Rhyne Howard, one of the top players ever in Bradley Central’s storied girls’ basketball program, was named the 2018 Class 3A Miss Basketball on Tuesday at a ceremony at Middle Tennessee State University.
Howard, a 6-foot-1 point guard who has signed to play college basketball at Kentucky, is the Bearettes’ No. 3 all-time leading scorer and will lead the team into the state tournament against Daniel Boone on Wednesday at MTSU’s Murphy Center, better known as the “Glass House.”
“I feel good about winning Miss Basketball,” Howard said in a telephone interview.
“Obviously, I feel a lot better than last year because I won this year.”
In boys’ awards, Brainerd's Jessie Walker and McCallie's Jr Clay were finalists for the Class 2A and Division II-2A honors, respectively. Caden Mills of Van Buren, which played several Chattanooga-area teams, won Class A Mr. Basketball.
In four seasons, Howard has been instrumental in Bradley Central to a remarkable 128-11, four district and region championships, three wins in the sectionals and two state tournament appearances. She was a three-time District 5-3A Player of the Year and was named the Region 3-3A tournament MVP three years running.
Bradley Central (32-0), ranked No. 2 in Tennessee by MaxPreps, will play Daniel Boone (30-4), in the state quarterfinals on Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. (CT).
Howard is Bradley Central’s second Miss Basketball honoree – Brittany Jackson won it in 2001. Tuesday was the 34th time for TSSAA to honor the top player in every category for Division I and Division II teams.
“I couldn’t be prouder of Rhyne if she was my own daughter,” Bearettes coach Jason Reuter said. “The other two girls could make a case for winning, but there’s no doubt Rhyne deserved it. It’s a great honor for our school and not just for basketball. You’re looking at a girl that excels in the classroom; a girl that most people believe will have a really good career at Kentucky. And basketball-wise, what sets her apart is that when you look at the stat sheet after a game Rhyne had her hand in just about every category.”
The Bearettes beat the Trailblazers, 56-43, in November in the Holiday Inn Express Thanksgiving tournament at Jim Smiddy Arena in Cleveland, Tennessee. Bradley also beat Daniel Boone, 61-42, December 2016 in the Andrew Johnson Bank Ladies Classic in Greeneville, Tennessee, this past December.
In their previous Howard-led state appearance in 2016, the Bearettes beat Dickson County, 57-54, in the quarterfinals and Howard scored 13 points. Bradley lost to Oak Ridge, 38-31, in the semifinals and Howard managed only six points due to foul trouble. She eventually fouled out.
Howard and fellow Kentucky signee, Blair Green, are both Naismith All-America honorable mention selections.
The Bradley star was snubbed for the McDonald’s All-America team in January and made the remaining 13 opponents pay dearly leading up to this week’s state tournament.
Howard averaged 26.7 points and 8.5 rebounds in the post-snub stretch, scoring 41 points twice, 30 or more four times and notched six double-doubles.
“I’ll definitely use last year’s Miss Basketball and the McDonald’s thing as motivation for this week in the state tournament,” Howard said. “I feel pretty confident in our abilities and the schedule we played this season has prepared us for this week.”
Howard’s season low offensive production of six points occurred in an early season win against Campbell (Ga.) High School. Most recently, Bradley hammered Blackman, 63-34, in the sectional and Howard put up her last double-double with 27 points and 15 rebounds.
Howard, who scored 151 points as an eighth-grader at East Hamilton School before transferring to Bradley, started her Bearettes’ career with 458 points as a freshman. She’s been amazingly consistent for her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, scoring 648, 618 and 721 so far this season with at least one game remaining.
Howard has 2,474 career points, good for third place on the school’s all-time girls’ scoring chart. In terms of scoring in the five-on-five era of girls’ basketball at Bradley, Howard tops that list.
The remaining players ahead of Howard in career scoring, both Data Caldwell (3,011) and Liz Hannah (2,693) played with the 6-on-6 format. Howard was 15th on the scoring list when her senior season began.
In early February, Howard was among three players selected as finalists for Miss Basketball, the most prestigious individual honor awarded by the TSSAA. The other finalists were Riverdale’s Brinae Alexander and Ridgeway’s Elizabeth Dixon.
Alexander and Riverdale (33-1) take on Ravenwood (21-11) in the Class 3A state opener on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Ridgeway (14-13) was eliminated from the postseason in an 83-76 loss to Southwind in the Region 8-3A tournament.
Howard’s selection snapped a four-year streak where players from Riverdale and Blackman won the Miss Basketball plaque.
“Rhyne, our lone senior, is the only player on our team that had a college scholarship offer,” Reuter said, “but those other girls will have some offers before they leave Bradley. Rhyne makes her teammates better and she’s the team leader.
“When she says, ‘Saddle up and lets ride, they saddle up ride.’ That’s a testament to her unselfish style of play and the other girls have gravitated toward that. The chemistry of our team is the star has the other kids’ buying into what we’re doing.”
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)