For the Jo Byrns girls basketball team, it feels like ’89.

Well so far, anyway.

The Lady Red Devils improved to 10-3 with a 53-36 drubbing of East Robertson in Cedar Hill on Tuesday. The victory came despite point guard Ashlen Bryant battling flu-like symptoms and shooting guard Brooke Dowlen dealing with an ankle injury.

“It was an off game for everybody, but they got it together,” Jo Byrns coach Jessica Holt said. “We ended up with the win, and I’m proud of them. We got the shots we needed – (Brianna Rivera) came off the bench and that helped us a lot.”

Rivera helped fill in for the ailing players and finished with 13 points. Evy Helm led all scorers with 14, while Dowlen also managed 13.

Winning has become a habit for Jo Byrns, which went 22-8 and won its first district tournament since 1993 last season. Holt said she is hoping for more this season, and the early returns are promising. The team’s three losses are to Cheatham County (twice) and Clarksville Academy, both of which made their respective state tournaments in 2018-19.

“That was so good for us,” Holt said of playing stiff competition. “(Clarksville Academy) is very intimidating, and so is Cheatham County. It makes us better. I don’t care if I win those games, just being in them makes a difference.”

Jo Byrns’ lone state tournament appearance came in 1989, when Holt – then known as Jessica Stuard – was a senior guard for the Lady Red Devils. She scored 11 points in a 62-60 loss to eventual state champion Pickett County. Under Holt’s leadership, Jo Byrns returned to the sectionals for the first time since 1989 last season but fell to Loretto 76-41.

Could this be the year Jo Byrns finally breaks through?

The postseason will not shake out until mid-February, but the team is showing signs of having a championship-caliber makeup. Holt said her group has a knack for staying composed under pressure after graduating just two starters from last season in Becca Holt and Abbi Putnam.

“I think what I enjoy most about them is their ability to stay calm,” Holt said. “They act older than they are. They are a good group, and they play well together. They are special. We have competed with some good teams and beat some good teams.”

East Robertson’s season has not been as successful. The Lady Indians (1-15) have lost 11 straight as they try to get their younger players up to speed. Freshman Macy Phelps led with 11 points on Tuesday.

“We’re a young team, so I expected us to have some ups and downs,” East Robertson coach Kenyatta Perry said. “(Jo Byrns) is tough. They understand their system and how they want to play. I think they’ve figured out how to win. That’s what we hope to get to at some point.”

Jo Byrns is set to put its four-game win streak on the line against Houston County on Friday. East Robertson will travel to McEwen on Friday before making the short drive to White House Heritage on Tuesday.


East Robertson (36): Macy Phelps 11, Peyton Lackey 8, Libby Clark 6, Adrean Cole 4, Savannah Hinkle 4, Bailey Carroll 3.

Jo Byrns (53): Evy Helm 14, Brooke Dowlen 13, Brianna Rivera 13, Grayson Bryant 8, Jaya Herring 5.

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