Congrats to Union City, Knoxville Fulton and Ridgeway for bringing home the gold ball. Here are what I feel are the top stories that unfolded at the 2008 state tournament.
1. Union City finishes season unbeaten at 37-0
Things looked bleak for the Golden Tornadoes trailing by 17 at the half against deep and powerful Manassas, those in doubt knew nothing about the heart of a champion. Led by two-time, two-time Class A Mr. Basketball M.J. Brown the boys from the U.C. cut into the lead and gradually got themselves back into the game. They would eventually take the lead and bring another gold ball back to Union City.
2. The dominance of District 15AAA.
Two teams from the same district played for the AAA title with Ridgeway coming out on top. The Roadrunners had their way with the Spartans of White Station this season beating them four times including the championship. White Station bucked the odds to get back into the state picture with a lineup that features mostly underclassmen this could be an annual pilgrammage for the Spartans for a few years to come. The kicker to this whole story is that Ridgeway finished second in the district, while White Station finished third.....Kirby was the district champion, how's that for irony.
3. "The Real Thing" can really shoot foul shots
In an age where consistency from the charity stripe is about as rare as a Tiger Woods loss, it was refreshing to watch White Station sophomore Joe Jackson handle his business from the foul line. "The Real Thing" was just that knocking down 23 of 24 for the week including two games of 10 of 10. Remarkable.
4. Dyer County's Rex Pierce's buzzer beater against CPA
This contest was an instant classic no matter which teams colors you had on at the time. A back and forth affair dripping with intensity would be decided in the final ticks of the clock. Dyer County junior Rex Pierce hit an off balance three at the buzzer to give Dyer County the win and advance them into the semi-final round where they would fall to eventual champion Knoxville Fulton.
5. Fulton brings gold ball to East Tennessee
See people the East is not that bad. Knoxville Fulton played inspired hoops over the course of last week and came up huge when the chips seemed down, bringing home the shiny gold ball for display in the halls of Fulton High. Fulton needed overtime to squeeze past top ranked Dyer County and came back from an almost devastating Mitchell run at the start of the fourth quarter to capture the title.
6. Ken Torry's 48 point outburst against Chattanooga Howard
Memphis Mitchell senior guard Kenyan Torry was two points away from tying history on Friday with a 48 point outburst against Chattanooga Howard. The Texas Southern signee had numerous opportunities to break the old scoring mark of 50 held by Trey Pearson (South Fulton) in 2001, but could'nt quite knock that last bucket in before Coach Johnson let him rest for the title game.
7. Team atmosphere of Ridgeway players and coaches
I will never forget the reaction of Ridgeway senior Jason Jones as the public address announcer called off his teammate Sampson Carter as the MVP of Class AAA. Jones was as excited as if he'd won the award himself. In the media room Jones was asked about his reaction and he said "This is my boy and we've been through alot" then he put his hand on the gold basketball in front of him and said this is what really matters. It was truly a pleasure to observe the love these players had for Coach Henning and his admiration for the kids.
8. Young talent on display at the Murphy Center
If you thumbed through your program you could not have helped but notice the abundance of young talent that dominated play on the court at this years event. From Joe Jackson, Ferrakohn Hall, James Gallman, Jalen Steele, Mardracus Wade, Zaccheus Mason, C.J. Crittendon, Chase Dunn and many others the future of the state is in very good hands.
9. Emergence of Dyer County junior guard C.J. Crittendon
Every year a player or two steps his game up at tourney time and gives us a reason to smile very large. C.J. Crittendon had his coming out party at state this season and although his Choctaws did'nt get the gold ball, C.J. made sure they would be back sometime very soon. The junior guard has always been a demon on the defensive end of the floor and an unselfish player on the offensive side. His emergence was evident by a much improved outside shot which makes him a very dangerous player. Look forward to seeing him this summer.
10. Fans on hand to support their kids and communities.
The Siegel Nation, the entire towns of Dyer County and Union City, fans were here to represent their schools and players. This is what high school sports is all about.