Basketball tournament time right around the corner

Published 2:10 am Friday, February 12, 2021

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In just one week, another milestone will take place in regard to sports and the ongoing ordeal with COVID-19 as local schools in Carter County will take to the courts to participate in their respective district contests.
Just like in football, many didn’t have too much hope in getting through a basketball season with the sport being played indoors but every athletic director in the county deserves to be patted on the back and taken out for supper for the job they did in ensuring that student-athletes could have a fairly normal season even though some did miss out on a few games.

Heading into the district tournaments, I thought it might be well worth the time to talk a little about the schools and possible outcomes as teams will have their regular season or glorified scrimmages as I like to refer to it behind them and now they take aim for a shot at a state berth.

On the girls’ side, let’s start with Coach Matt Birchfield’s Cloudland Lady Highlanders, who I for one, believe is starting to hit their stride in the season and could very well make a deep run.

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The Lady ‘Landers have a couple of things going for them in their ability to create offensively and put a defensive clamp on their opposition with their full-court press which creates points off of turnovers.

Birchfield has a group of experienced players that came an eyelash of advancing to the state tournament last year had it not been for a last-second shot on the road at Oneida in the sectionals.

The Lady ‘Landers still have to contend with the Lady Huskies of North Greene but if they continue their upward swing they should be in great shape.

Also, the Unaka Lady Rangers can’t be written off as Coach Kenneth Chambers has he has one of the top 1-A players in the state in Lyndie Ramsey.

It should be a fun district tournament in District 1-A as these teams battle it out.

In District 1-AA, the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones have had brief moments of lost focus on the court, but over the course of the last couple of weeks, the Lady Cyclones under the leadership of Coach Lucas Andrews have been playing solid basketball as scoring has become distributed more evenly with Torrie Roberts once again starting to find her touch from the outside.

Lina Lyons and Morgan Headrick have been playing solid basketball and Renna Lane has had games where she couldn’t miss. Andrews also has a strong contributing group in McKendra Norris, Olivia Holly, Maddie Fowler, and Katie Lee.

Standing in the Lady Cyclones way in the district is the East Lady Patriots while Unicoi County, Central, and Happy Valley are all hungry for the title.

Coach Dana Hill has a tenacious squad at Happy Valley but if there was one weakness it would have to be bench depth especially should their starters get in foul trouble. I still wouldn’t count it a win if finding myself opposite the Lady Warriors.

On the boys’ side, my two picks to make some noise in their respective tournaments are the Hampton Bulldogs and Elizabethton Cyclones.

Hampton pulled off a big win this past week by taking down the North Greene Huskies who were ranked fourth in the state in Class A and held the top spot in the Watauga Valley Conference.

I have said from the very beginning that with all the games that the Bulldogs played earlier against Class AA and Class AAA schools were going to pay off down the stretch when it comes to schools of the same size.

Morgan Lyons has been a tough cookie to defend all season and throw into the mix the inside play of Conor Burleson and the outside shooting of Michael Harrison, Dalton Holtsclaw, and Garrett Vines, the Bulldogs could make a run to the state tournament once again this season if all the pieces fall into place.

The Cyclones have been a Jekyll and Hyde team this season as there have been games where they could have beaten anyone they played and other games where it was more exciting to see the snow melt.

However, once again I have said that this team has something special about them that if they can get out of the way of themselves mentally, they have all the tools to make a push for an opportunity at a state berth.

Jake Roberts has shown he can flip the scoreboard quicker than a slot machine when he is hot while post player Nicholas Wilson can dominate inside if he can stay away from foul trouble.

William Willocks can either penetrate or score from the outside while the same can be said for Brayden Phillips. Bryce VanHuss has done a good job of running the offense and can also knock down the outside shot.

Coach Lucas Honeycutt has gotten some great minutes off the bench from Dalton Mitchell, Nate Stephens, and Seth Carter.

All in all, district tournament time is always an exciting time for all teams as they fight to stay alive and at least get a regional berth to keep their season going and keep their dreams of a state tournament in reach.