Grieving MTSU will play on
Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 11:56 am
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
MURFREESBORO (AP) — The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders women’s basketball team spent most of Thursday grieving the stabbing death of teammate Tina Stewart and agonizing over the decision to play in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
They took every minute they could, then unanimously decided to continue their season.
The Blue Raiders met with athletic director Chris Massaro and coach Rick Insell before reaching the decision minutes before a press conference. But Insell said the decision to play this weekend in Arkansas was solely the players.
“We became very supportive of what they decided to do, and they just decided it before they went in here that they want to go to Hot Springs,” the teary-eyed Insell said.
Stewart, 21, of Memphis, was stabbed to death Wednesday night and her 18-year-old roommate Shanterrica Madden has been charged with first-degree murder. The MTSU freshman is being held without bond. Madden’s attorney, Joe Brandon, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his client used Stewart’s own knife on her in self-defense during a fight. He did not say what the altercation was about.
During the press conference, teammate Anne Marie Lanning spoke for the Blue Raiders with her teammates grouped behind her, holding hands. Freshman KeKe Stewart couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks.
In a show of unity, the men’s team stood behind the women with all the players wearing purple ribbons and stickers reading “20GETHER” in honor of Stewart’s jersey No. 20.
Lanning said the women went from the hospital where Stewart was declared dead to Insell’s home Wednesday night.
“We know Tina would want us to go out and play,” Lanning said. “We just talked about it, and we all just kind of looked at each other, ‘Yeah, that’s what we want to do.’ We want to make sure to collectively decide. Not five saying yes, five saying no. We all just talked about it. We’re going to go out there and play for Tina and give it our all.”
Middle Tennessee (23-6) is the East’s top seed scheduled to play Sunday in Hot Springs, Ark. The Blue Raiders, 14-2 in league play, are trying to earn the automatic berth with the tournament title for a 14th trip to the NCAA Tournament. They won last year, but this team is much younger with 11 freshmen and sophomores.
Stewart was a key veteran on this team despite being relegated to the bench after starting in a career-high 14 games this season and had a career-best 15 points on Nov. 28. She averaged 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 28 games this season for the Blue Raiders.
Police found Stewart stabbed multiple times in her apartment when called for a disturbance. Madden’s attorney won a request that Madden be photographed by police to document her injuries as proof of the fight.
“Miss Stewart, who was an athlete, had Miss Madden down on the ground beating on her,” Brandon said. “Miss Madden has an abrasion above her left eye, looks like perhaps a fingernail. She has swelling to both of her eyes. And during the course of the fight, a knife belonging to Miss Stewart that was in Miss Stewart’s possession ended up getting used on Miss Stewart.”
Brandon said he will file a motion asking that bond be set for Madden. She is scheduled back in Rutherford County General Sessions Court on March 11.