Time for the Big Show, The Road to Murfreesboro
Published 1:52 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023
BY C.Y. Peters
Every coach and every player at the start of each basketball season has one goal, to travel to Murfreesboro for March Madness. Mid-way through the season, it looked like Carter County would have four teams in the state tournament this year and that may still be possible but in all reality, maybe only three. That’s pretty dang good, considering most of the time, the best team doesn’t win the state tournament.
Last year I thought Hampton boys was by far the best team in the state tournament but lost to East Roberson, who blew out Peabody in the title game. Hampton beat West Carroll in the opening game by outscoring them 21-3 in the second quarter. The Bulldogs had four players hit double figures, led by Morgan Lyons with 17 points, followed by Cadon Buckles with 12, while Conor Burleson and Hayden Campbell scored ten points each. It looked like the Bulldogs would make the final game but a late three-pointer by Roberson tied the score and sent it into overtime, where the Dogs lost 58-56. They have several players back from last year and should have the chance to bring home the gold ball.
Elizabethton girls made their way to Murfreesboro last year, a familiar place for the Lady Cyclones. They were there in 2005, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2014 when they won the State title. In 2015 and 2016, they had the best team in the state, by far. As I said earlier, the best team usually doesn’t win the title. They played Upperman and it was the first game of the tournament and believe me, it’s always hard to get ready and play at 10 am in the morning. They fell behind 31 to 16 by the half, and outscored Upperman in the second half, but the big league they built early stood true. Upperman went on to win the title 48-43 over Jackson Southside.
Hampton girls are as good as many of the teams Doug Phillips took to the state in the late 90s. In 1997 and 1998, Hampton played Bradford with Bradford advancing to win the state title. In 2000 Hampton opened the tournament with the 10 am game against Wayne County, Wayne County won the state tournament.
Hampton girls went on to play in the 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2017 state tournaments. This year they are quicker and can shoot the ball well. They played good defense and have a great chance of bringing home the gold ball. All three teams, stay focused and play hard, and the future looks bright.
Cloudland, Happy Valley and Unaka girls and boys are long shots, but long shots are Carter County sports history. In 1960 Hampton boys had to be the longest shot of all. Small school, one classification and they didn’t even win the District. Luck plays a big part in this game, skill is great, but sometimes you have to get some breaks. The Bulldogs got some breaks in the Regional, and won a couple of games they could have lost in the state tournament, but squeaked by with a win. They were not the best team in the state in 1960, Murfreesboro had two 6’8 players and was 38-0, Union City was undefeated at 34-0. Hampton beat both teams in front of over 6000 people.
In 1974 we all thought Hampton had the best team in the state. They were ranked number one almost all year and had beaten Happy Valley at least three times, maybe more if you counted the scrimmages. The Bulldogs had already made reservations for the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. Coach Charlie Bayless Happy Valley Warriors pulled off the win of the century and went on to win the state title. Maybe they were not the best team in the state or maybe they were.
In 2004 no one thought the Unaka Boys team would make it to the state tournament except Coach Donald Ensor and his coaching staff. They won every game in the District, Regional and Substate, along with every game in the state tournament with a 25-13 record. It was the first gold ball since the 1974 Warriors. Ensor believed they could win it; he had faith in his boys, and they worked hard and became very successful.
In 2014 Coach Len Duggers Elizabethton Cyclones may have not been the best team in the state, but they brought home Elizabethton’s first lady’s Gold ball. Most of his girls were Sophomores and they would return the next two seasons. In 2016 they had the best team in the state, but like I said, not always does the best team win.