MURFREESBORO — If Oneida had its preference, the Lady Indians likely wouldn’t have drawn Loretto in the Class A state quarterfinals. But blind luck is the rule of the day at TSSAA’s state tournament bracket draw, and the Lady Indians will have to get past the team with the state’s best record to continue playing beyond Thursday.
The Lady Indians and the Mustangs are set to square off at 2:15 p.m. EST at Middle Tennessee State University on Thursday. Here is a little about Oneida’s quarterfinal opponent:
Loretto High School is located in the Town of Loretto (pop. 1,700) in Lawrence County, along the Tennessee-Alabama border in southwest Middle Tennessee. The school’s enrollment is 531 (Oneida’s enrollment is 382).
Loretto will enter Thursday’s game with a record of 31-1. Oneida enters with a record of 26-7. On paper, the Mustangs have the best record in the state tournament; the Lady Indians are tied for the second-worst record in the state tournament. Of course, records are deceiving because they do not take strength of schedule into account, and Oneida played one of the toughest schedules in the state.
The Mustangs’ lone loss came to district rival Summertown in the Times Daily Classic in Florence, Ala. on December 21. Since then, Loretto has won 22 consecutive games. Oneida’s losses came to Class AAA Campbell County and Bearden back in November, twice to No. 2 Clarkrange, once to Sunbright and twice to Midway. At one point this season, the Lady Indians had won 17 consecutive games.
Loretto actually played Summertown five times this season. The Eagles, who are also in the state tournament, lost only seven games this season and four of them were to Loretto, including the District 12-A championship game and the Region 6-A championship game.
The Mustangs got to the state tournament by defeating Summertown by one point in the district championship game, 46-45, then defeating the Eagles again in the region championship game — this time in overtime, 51-48. Loretto then throttled Jo Byrns (22-8) in the substate game, 76-41. Despite being 22-8, Jo Byrns had gone only 3-3 in district play before getting hot in the postseason. The Red Devils lost to Richland in the Region 5-A championship; Richland then lost to Summerville in the substate.
Oneida got to the state tournament despite falling to Midway in both the District 3-A championship game and the Region 2-A championship game. The Lady Indians defeated No. 4 Tellico Plains in the region semifinals, then defeated Cosby in the substate game, 57-52.
Loretto, which was ranked most of the season, ended the regular season ranked No. 3 by the state’s Associated Press voters. Gibson County and Clarkrange, both of which are in the state tournament, were the top two teams in the poll.
Loretto and Summertown were the only teams in District 12-A with winning records. Wayne County, which finished third, was 10-19 overall, followed by Collinwood at 6-16, Frank Hughes at 6-17 and Perry County at 5-20.
The highest-ranked opponent defeated by the Mustangs this season was No. 8 Summertown, which Loretto defeated four times. The highest-ranked opponent defeated by the Lady Indians this season was No. 4 Tellico Plains, which Oneida beat in the Region 2-A semifinals.
Loretto has put up 80 or more points in six games this season, and averaged 65 points per game this season. They twice held an opponent to fewer than 10 points. Fayetteville scored just eight against the Mustangs, and Columbia Academy scored only five. Overall, Loretto’s opponents averaged 37 points per game.
Oneida scored 80 or more points in two games and averaged 56 points per game this season. The Lady Indians gave up a season-low of 12 points against Rockwood. Overall, Oneida’s opponents averaged 38 points per game.
According to CoachT.com, Loretto ranks fourth in the state in strength-plus-success rankings, which combines opponent winning percentages with the team’s winning percentage. Oneida ranks eighth in those rankings.
For the record, Clarkrange ranks second, Tellico Plains ninth, Midway 10th and Cosby 13th.
The website ranks Loretto’s strength of schedule No. 71 among Tennessee’s Class A teams. Oneida’s strength of schedule is ranked No. 25.
Loretto last advanced to the state tournament in 2015, defeating Dresden in the quarterfinals before falling to Jackson County in the semifinals. The Mustangs also got to the state tournament in 2011 and 2012. In 2016, they advanced to the substate but lost. The last two seasons, they exited the postseason in the region semifinals. In 2004, Loretto made it to the state tournament as a Class AA team.
Oneida last got to the state tournament in 2005, losing to University School of Jackson in the quarterfinals. The Lady Indians made it back to the substate in 2017 but lost to Hampton. Last year, Oneida ended its season in the region semifinals.
Loretto is led by a strong freshman, Karly Weathers, who averages 21 points per game. Sophomore Madelinn Tidwell averages 11 points per game.
The Mustangs have made 216 3-point shots this season, an average of seven per game. Leading the way is Weathers, with 84 made 3-pointers.
Loretto is coached by Ashley Rutledge. School colors are black and gold.