Champions have been crowned. Mr. Basketball winners brought home some hardware and the end to the high school season proved to be exciting and drama filled with the crowning of three new champions in the various classifications.
Here are some notes and observations I took from the state tournament including 8 stories that caught my eye.
Memphis Mitchell cut down the nets with a dominating performance in the title game win over Meigs County. Naba Echols (Mitchell) brought home the tournament MVP honors and was joined on the all-tournament team by:
Tristan Robinson (Hampton)
Stanley Valentine (Hampton)
Jamarcus Franklin (BTW)
Angelo Smith (BTW)
Jeremiah Martin (Mitchell)
Antonie Garrett (Mitchell)
Cortez Wallace (Mitchell)
Zy Moore (Meigs County)
Levi Woods (Meigs County)
The Mr. Basketball award went to senior guard DeSonta Bradford (Humboldt). Bradford was selected over finalists Derrick Spears (MTCS) and Levi Woods (Meigs County)
Jackson Southside and East Nashville battled in a double overtime instant classic with Southside finally coming out on top. Malik Hicks (Jackson Southside) with his 29 point effort in the title game was named the Class AA Tournament MVP. He was joined on the glitter squad by:
Trevor Wright (Greeneville)
Braxton Bonds (CPA)
Braxton Blackwell (CPA)
Jaylen Barford (Jackson Southside)
Terry Holt (East Nashville)
Thomas Booker (East Nashville)
Isaiah Upton (East Nashville)
Chris McNeal (Jackson Southside)
Terrikous Smith (Jackson Southside)
Braxton Blackwell (CPA) took home the Mr. Basketball award. Only a sophomore, Blackwell is one of the most impressive players to come through the state in some time. Blackwell was selected over finalists Jordon Varnado (Haywood) and LaGerlad Vick (Douglas).
Blackman overcomes a double digit deficit to Oak Ridge in the final stanza to bring home the gold ball to Murfreesboro. Juaun Jennings (Blackman) was named the MVP of the Class AAA classification and was joined on the All-Tournament squad by:
James McPherson (Brentwood)
C.J. Anderson (Arlington)
Adarius Avery (Arlington)
Reid Pierce (Blackman)
Isaac Merian (Oak Ridge)
Lukas Hart (Blackman)
Jaylin Henderson (Oak Ridge)
Kevin Steen (Oak Ridge)
Andrew Rogan (Blackman)
Leron Black (White Station) brought home the prestigious Mr. Basketball award in Class AAA. The 6'7 senior will play his college basketball next season at the University of Illinois. Black was selected over finalists C.J. Anderson (Arlington) and Daniel Norl (Kenwood).
Notes and Observations from the 2014 TSSAA State Tournament
1. CPA Seniors Rewrite the Record Books
The Lions of CPA saw their 94 game winning streak against Tennessee teams snapped in the semi-finals against eventual state champion Jackson Southside. The loss brought into perspective the accomplishments of the senior class for CPA.
The Class of 2014 finished their careers with a record of 137-12. They won 4 district regular season and tournament titles, 3 regular season and tournament regional championships, three trips to state with one final four finish and two state titles.
Braxton Bonds (CPA), Andrew Manuel (CPA), Paul Adams (CPA), Thomas Richard (CPA), Ben Dreher (CPA) and Jake Allsmiller (CPA) are a group of young men who excelled on the hardwood and in the classroom and will be role models for underclassmen in Nashville and all around the state for years to come.
2. East Tennessee Resurgence
We all know that West Tennessee is the clear cut dominant force year in and year out in the state of Tennessee. East Tennessee teams have generally been happy to be in the dance and not since Maryville in 2007 has an East Tennessee squad brought home the gold ball.
Gold balls were not brought home, yet the performances of Oak Ridge in Class AAA and Megs County in Class A were certainly noteworthy.
Seniors Isaac Merian (Oak Ridge), Kevin Steen (Oak Ridge) and Jaylin Henderson (Oak Ridge) led the Wildcats to wins over Jefferson County and Arlington before falling in the title game to Blackman. Henderson gave his all in the title contest garnering game high scoring honors with 24 markers.
The future looks bright for Coach Aaron Green and the Cats with sophomore point guard Geevontay Gee (Oak Ridge) and freshman wing Tee Higgins (Oak Ridge) ready to make this an annual pilgrimage to the 'boro.
Let us also mention Greeneville who bested Knoxville Carter in the opening round before meeting up with East Nashville and Hampton who also advanced to the final four with an opening round win over Lead Academy before falling to eventual state champion Memphis Mitchell.
3. Three Brand New State Champions
All three classifications saw first timers win the coveted Gold Ball.
In Class A, Memphis Mitchell had made the trek to the 'boro many times and finally proved to be the dominant force as they bring the Gold Ball back to the Bluff City. Mitchell survived a high scoring Goodpasture group in overtime in the first round before catching their stride in the semi-final victory over Hampton. They finished things off with a 56-27 triumph over Meigs County.
Over in Class AA, Jackson Southside outdueled a determined East Nashville squad 91-83 to bring home their first state title for the program and Coach Damonn Fuller. Southside defeated Manassas in the opening round and two time defending Class AA champion CPA in the semi-finals.
Blackman brought the house down with an opening round win over powerful Memphis Hamilton then got a hard fought semi-final win over Brentwood before their come from behind title game victory over Oak Ridge. The Gold Ball for Class AAA resides in the city of Murfreesboro till we do this again next season.
4. Meet Levi Woods
Class A was worth the price of admission this year with the play of Lee University signee Levi Woods (Meigs County).
The senior guard got the ball rolling quickly with an 18 point, 19 rebound performance against Columbia Academy in the opening round. He followed that up with a performance for the ages with a 30 point, 15 rebound masterpiece against traditional Class A powerhouse BTW.
Despite the championship game margin, Woods still managed 15 points and 13 caroms against the powerful Mitchell machine.
5. Blackman Takes Class AAA with 5 New Starters
This was supposed to happen last season. Coming into the state tournament in 2013 the Blaze were unblemished, ranked 1st in the state and ready to being home a gold ball.
Five new starters donned the Blaze Navy and Orange and embarked on returning the friendly confines of the campus just up the road.
The Blaze came into the playoffs with a gaudy record and quickly piled up wins over Coffee County and LaVergne before falling to Siegel in the region final.
A trip to Stone Memorial for the sub-state/sectional game proved that the Blaze belonged in the dance. Coach Wortman had the troops ready as they defeated the tourney favorite Memphis Hamilton in the opening round then bested last year's nemesis Brentwood in a close game to advance to the title contest.
Trailing by double digits late in the game, the Blaze needed someone to step up and carry them if they were to keep the Gold Ball in the 'boro.
Andrew Rogan (Blackman), Lukas Hart (Blackman), Reid Pierce (Blackman), Juaun Jennings (Blackman) and Isaiah Hart (Blackman) took the challenge and when all was said and done the Blaze were hoisting the trophy as the champions of Class AAA in Tennessee.
6. Memphis Mitchell keeps a Gold Ball in the Bluff City
The year was 2007 and the list of the state champions read as follows in Class AAA the winner was Maryville, in Class AA Liberty Tech was running the table and Tennessee Temple brought home the crown in Class A.
The significance of this list for those interested is that was the last year that no school from the Memphis metro area came home with a gold ball in either of the three classifications.
Forward to 2014, Memphis Hamilton falls to eventual champion Blackman in the opening round. BTW goes down to Meigs County in the semi's. Will the Bluff City not have a representative bring home a gold ball?
Not so fast my friends, Memphis Mitchell put the weight on their shoulders and cruised to the Class A title with a large 56-27 victory over Meigs County.
It was the first Class A crown for a Memphis team since Manassas brought home gold in 2009. The Blackman victory stopped a 6 year run for Memphis schools in Class AAA and an unprecedented 13 out of 14 years running since 2000.
7. Underclassmen Make Serious Noise in the Tourney
Youngsters showed they were something to be reckoned with after some outstanding performances during the 2014 TSSAA State Tournament. Take a look:
Dedric Lawson- Hamilton (2016)
24 points in the loss to Blackman
Juaun Jennings- Blackman (2015)
MVP of the Class AAA division leading Blackman to the state title.
James McPherson-Brentwood (2015)
All-Tournament selection helped Brentwood to the final four in Class AAA.
Adarius Avery-Arlington (2015)
All-Tourney selection has a bright future with his length and athleticism.
Nathan Hoover-Arlington (2016)
Big time shooter was instrumental in the Tigers run to the state final four.
Tee Higgins-Oak Ridge (2017)
The kid has the length and size to be a major force down the road.
Geevantay Gee-Oak Ridge (2016)
Really shined in the spot light, quick and nasty lead guard.
John Bryant-Jefferson County (2015)
Inside scorer who should make this an annual trip with the Patriots.
Tyree Beason-BTW (2016)
Nasty quick guard with good size and a lefty stroke
Jackson Cary-Columbia Academy (2015)
Lanky wing scorer with athleticism
Zy Moore-Meigs County (2017)
Dynamic lead guard with a sic stroke
Stanley Valentine-Hampton (2015)
Long athlete with a nice mid-range stroke
Naba Echols-Mitchell (2015)
Diminutive lefty with a nasty outside stroke
Jeremiah Martin-Mitchell (2015)
Length and swagger make this kid a must see this summer and in the future
Thomas Booker-East Nashville (2016)
Fearless competitor who craves the big shot
Isaiah Blacksmith-East Nashville (2016)
Played quality minutes throughout the tournament big things coming for this kid
Kevin Cameron-Tyner Academy (2017)
Tough kid who plays hard
Braxton Blackwell-CPA (2016)
Mr. Basketball do we need to say more
Chris McNeal-Jackson Southside (2015)
Nobody opened more eyes than this kid did at the state tournament
Malik Hicks-Jackson Southside (2015)
Tourney MVP was steady and played his role in winning the championship
8. Instant Classic: Jackson Southside and East Nashville Battle for the 'ship
Ironically the format created by the TSSAA allowed the Class AA game to be the nightcap of the day on Championship Saturday.
The teams did not disappoint.
A double overtime affair filled with big shots, huge scoring efforts, relentless effort and in the end Jackson Southside took home the Gold Ball yet East Nashville had nothing to hang their heads about.
Tourney MVP Malik Hicks (Jackson Southside) took game high scoring honors with 29 points and also managed to snatch 9 caroms along the way. Jaylen Barford (Jackson Southside), who made the game winner in the semi-final victory over two-time defending champion CPA, finished with 25. Chris McNeal (Jackson Southside) also added 25 in the championship victory.
Terry Holt (East Nashville) culminated a big tournament and a fine senior season with 26 points. Thomas Booker (East Nasville), only a sophomore, also managed 26 markers while leading the squad in boards with 10. Isaiah Upton (East Nashville) added 18.