Bulldog dominance and Lady Dogs’ triumph: Middle School Tournament Thrills

Published 11:32 am Friday, January 26, 2024

By C.Y. Peters

In the heart of Happy Valley High School on a Wednesday night, the atmosphere crackled with excitement as the eighth-grade Bulldogs took the court for the middle school tournament. Led by the strategic mind of Leon Tolley, it seemed as if he had channeled his inner Phil Jackson, orchestrating a performance that mirrored the legendary 1993 Chicago Bulls.

From the first whistle, the Bulldogs showcased a level of intensity that left spectators in awe. Every element witnessed in a professional game unfolded before their eyes – a relentless full-court press, impeccable double-teaming, and seamless teamwork. The star of the night, tournament MVP Colby Clark, even delivered a jaw-dropping slam dunk that echoed the greatness of the Bulldogs.

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Hampton wasted no time seizing control of the game, stunning their opponents by scoring an impressive 50 points in the first half alone. Their dominance continued, culminating in a resounding 65-25 victory, marking the largest margin of victory in a county championship since the era of Bernie Young and the Happy Valley Middle School Warriors.

Kaden Jones emerged as a scoring powerhouse, leading all players with 21 points, while Colby Clark contributed 18 to the scoreboard. One of the defining moments of the game came when Kasey Gilbert sank a three-pointer, concluding the first half and pushing the Bulldogs’ score to a remarkable 50 points. Gavyn Shell tried to rally the Highlanders with seven points, but the Bulldogs’ performance left an indelible mark on the tournament.

Switching gears to the girls’ action, the matchup between Hunter and Hampton was a highly anticipated clash, marking their fourth encounter of the season. The first half lived up to the hype, with Hampton initially leading until the three-minute mark when Hunter launched an impressive 8-0 run, securing a three-point lead to end the half.

As the Lady Dogs regrouped during halftime, they came out on fire in the third quarter, putting up 15 points and never looking back. The final score reflected their dominance, with Hampton emerging victorious at 40-28. Natalie Nickels led Hampton’s charge with nine points, while Hunter’s Brooklyn finished the game with an impressive 12 points.

The tournament night at Happy Valley High School will be etched in the memories of fans and players alike. The Bulldogs’ stellar performance and the Lady Dogs’ triumphant comeback added a new chapter to the rich history of middle school basketball tournaments in the county. Leon Tolley, with his coaching expertise, had orchestrated a night of thrilling basketball, leaving everyone eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the middle school hoops saga.  The regionals will be played at John Sevier School in Kingsport.