Tigers end 8-A era with championship

Andy Reed • Feb 18, 2017 at 11:53 PM

HENDERSONVILLE — With District 8-A (and 6-A before that) as it has been known for decades soon to be dissolved, Watertown bade farewell in grand style Saturday night, sending shockwaves through the high school basketball community by upsetting Goodpasture 65-61 in the league championship game at Merrol Hyde.

The Cougars hadn’t lost to a Class A team this year. But Watertown served notice this might be a different night, a notice which got stronger as the night went along.

“We were the only team in four years that beat Goodpasture,” Watertown coach Matt Bradshaw said after his Purple Tigers won their third district title of the decade after winning none since the 1930s. “I told our guys this isn’t a David vs. a Goliath. We’re just going to go out and play our game. We changed some stuff up from what we did the first two times, made some adjustments, and the kids executed. That’s the bottom line. You can make all the adjustments you want to in the world, but I’m proud of these kids. I asked them to do something we hadn’t done all year,and that was go out and play halfcourt man. We haven’t halfcourt-manned a single team all year long. I asked them to do it and they did a fantastic job of it.”

Because the Tigers hadn’t played that defense, there was no video for Goodpasture to see. The sudden change sent the Cougars reeling as Watertown rallied from an early deficit to lead 15-14 at the first-quarter break, 20-25 at halftime and 46-30 during the third quarter before Goodpasture could regroup.

“There wasn’t a single tape of it, I can promise you that,” Bradshaw said. “The kids executed. I asked them to rebound. I asked them to block out. They’re pound for pound bigger than us across the board. I told them before the game the team with the most heart that wants to go win is going to win.”

Goodpasture rallied to a 56-56 tie on a three-pointer by Spencer Smith with three minutes to play. But Vonte Bates’ reverse layup at 2:28 put the Purple Tigers back in front and a three-pointer by tournament most valuable player Seth Price put the Cougars behind the eight-ball.

“Our kids remembered last year,” Bradshaw said. “Our kids had beaten them in the regular season (twice) and they came out here (at Gordonsville) and stunned us in the tournament. Our kids didn’t forget that. That’s something we’ve talked about all week long and that’s something we reiterated before we went in tonight. We know how this feels, and if you want to change how this feels, then you go out and execute and do it.”

Price poured in 21 points and Austin Lasater 18 as each hit four three-pointers. Ty Love totaled 10 points and nine rebounds while Preston Tomlinson added eight points and five assist, Bates six points and Heath Price two points, five assists and three steals. Lasater also had three thefts.

Smith sank five triples as part of his 23 points while Tripp McEachern 14, including a pair of threes, for the Cougars, who fell to 24-3.

Tomlinson, Lasater, Ty Love and Heath Price joined Seth Price on the all-tournament team. Love, Tomlinson, Lasater were also named all-district while Seth Price repeated as most valuable player.

It is the final go-around for the nucleus of teams in 8-A. Watertown is moving up to Class AA. Gordonsville, Trousdale County and Red Boiling Springs will move east to join their Region 4 rivals in District 7-A. Goodpasture will join former 8-A member Friendship Christian in Division II. Since at least the 1980s (in 6-A until 1997), Watertown, Gordonsville and Trousdale had battled on the hardwood, as had FCS until it went D-II four years ago. RBS moved over from 7-A eight years ago.

There will be a District 8-A in the future, but with a different batch of schools. The Purple Tigers’ title marks the end of an era.

“We’re going to try to keep our regular rivalries with those teams as far as scheduling goes,” Bradshaw said. “It’s sad. It’s the only district I’ve ever coached in as a head coach (having coached at Friendship after the Lebanon High grad served as an assistant at his alma mater in 7-AAA under current county mayor Randall Hutto). That’s a little sad for me. The teams here are great.

“But this is probably the best way to close it out if you’re going to close it out.”

Watertown will have a week to savor the championship and its 23-6 record. But the region will begin at 7 p.m. next Saturday at satellite locations before the semifinals move to WHS next week. The rocking atmosphere is often missing at a home site in the opening round of a region in which there is just one game. And there’s the natural letdown from the emotional high as well.

“This group remembers the last two years when we’ve been bounced from the first round of the region,” Bradshaw said. “We wanted to win tonight, but I promise you this group remembers last year (a home loss to Pickett County). We’ve been really building for that game. I hope we come out ready to play, I think we will. I felt win, lose or draw tonight, we were ready and prepared to play.”

Hastings keys Lebanon rally as McDowell gets 100th win

It’s unusual to see a team try a box-and-one defense on a post player. But that’s what Beech’s boys did in Saturday night’s District 9-AAA semifinal.

It took a while for Lebanon to answer. But when the Blue Devils did, it was freshman point guard Jeremiah Hastings who held the key as they rallied to a 44-35 win, handing coach Jim McDowell his 100th coaching win at his alma mater.

With Beech sending a chaser on center Eddie Jackson, the Buccaneers led 11-7 following the first quarter and 22-15 at halftime before Hastings helped key a third-quarter surge which saw Lebanon grab a 28-25 lead going into the fourth as the Blue Devils moved into Tuesday’s 8 p.m. final and a home Region 5-AAA first-round game at 7 p.m. next Saturday.

The Blue Devils will bring a 21-7 record into the final against No. 6 seed Station Camp. McDowell, in his sixth season, is 100-70.

Hastings had 15 points and fellow guard Cameron Oliver 12 while Noah Mulaski and freshman starter Polo Phillips five each. David Covile collected three points and Jackson and Zion Logue two each.

Elrod lifts Lady Wildcats to 9-AAA final

With Addison Byrd drawing blanks from three-point range, point guard Piper Elrod stepped up when Wilson Central’s girls needed a spark, and points, in Saturday’s District 9-AAA semifinals at Lebanon’s Campbell Brandon Gym/Hester Gibbs Court.

Elrod hit all four of her three-point attempts as the Lady Wildcats rebounded from a near shutout in the first quarter to beat Beech 37-18.

The Lady Buccaneers held Central without a first-quarter field goal as they led 6-2. But the Lady Wildcats rallied in a 16-2 second to lead 18-8 at halftime and 27-13 through three periods as they advanced to Monday’s 8 p.m. championship game against Mt. Juliet with a 28-2 record.

Beech will battle Station Camp for third place at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Central also punched a ticket for a first-round Region 5-AAA home game at 7 p.m. next Friday before the winner returns to Lebanon for the semifinals Feb. 27.

Elrod led the Lady Wildcats with 14 points while Byrd, 0-for-9 from three, supplied seven, Nathalie Ventura and Lindsey Freeman six each and Kenadhi Killebrew four. Taylor Tucker took down seven rebounds while Ventura finished with four steals.

Resurgent Lady Bears roar into 9-AAA final

Mt. Juliet’s youthful girls played like the Lady Bears of old Saturday as No. 6-seed MJ knocked off No. 2 Station Camp 49-37 in the District 9-AAA semifinals at Lebanon’s Campbell Brandon Gym/Hester Gibbs Court.

A game of runs settled into the offense and defensive flow Mt. Juliet fans have seen for decades as the Lady Bears got 17 points from freshman Emma Palmer and 16 from classmate Aaliyah Frazier, primarily from the low block, as MJ, which had struggled so much in 2017, moved into a familiar place for the program, if not most of the current roster, Monday’s 8 p.m. final against Wilson Central.

The win also booked a first-round home Region 5-AAA game at 7 p.m. Friday with the winner returning to Brandon Gym for the semifinals Feb. 27.

The Lady Bears led 13-6 late in the first quarter. But a 9-0 run by Station Camp put the Lady Bison in front 20-15.

Mt. Juliet answered with 14 straight to take the lead 29-20. The Lady Bears executed while Station Camp went cold as MJ improved to 16-11 and SC fell to 22-6, Monday’s 6:30 p.m. consolation contest against the Beech-Central loser and on the road for the regional.

Senior Cassidy Harris, Mt. Juliet’s only non-senior starter, and ninth-grader Nevaeh Majors each scored six while veteran Julia Maki finished with four fourth-quarter free throws.

Cassidy Fry flung in five three-pointers for her 15 to lead the Lady Bison while Emiline Payne eight of her 14 in the first quarter.

Mt. Juliet boys fall into 9-AAA consolations

An hour after No. 6-seed Mt. Juliet’s girls knocked off No. 2 Station Camp, boys’ No. 2 seed Mt. Juliet had it done to them by No. 6 Station Camp 51-38 Saturday in the District 9-AAA semifinals at Lebanon’s Campbell Brandon Gym/Hester Gibbs Court.

Mt. Juliet led 11-10 following the first quarter before falling behind 18-13 by halftime. Then point guard Chase Freeman went wild, scoring all but two of his 28 points in the second half as Station Camp roared into Tuesday’s 8 p.m. final against host Lebanon with a 20-9 record. The Golden Bears, who tried to stay in the game by knocking down nine three-pointers, fell to the same mark and will battle Beech for third place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Bears will have to go on the road next Saturday for a 7 p.m. Region 5-AAA first-round game whose winner will return to Lebanon for the semifinals Feb. 28.

Terrell Wilson threw in three triples to lead Mt. Juliet with 11 points. Joey Hayes also hit three from long range for his nine while Isaac Stephens finished with five, Trey Pruitt four and Jordan Lockridge, J.R. Sanders and Tony Thompson a three apiece.

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