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Wed, Jul 23, 2014

Lady Warriors, Blaze lead talented high school field

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I promised high school basketball predictions today. So, here they are, starting with the girls teams.

In girls the order of finish will be Riverdale, Oakland, Blackman, Siegel, Smyrna and La Vergne and here’s why.

1. Riverdale has four stars in the starting lineup and the best press variations I have seen in years.

If no one consistently beats it and forces them to play a half-court game and no one denies shots (especially 3s) to Tyisha Petty, Alexa Middleton and Shelbie Davenport and no one keeps Olivia Jones off the boards and stops her deadly put backs, then no one will beat them until at least the Region and even that is very unlikely.

The Lady Warriors opened their season at 13 -0. They could have lost in Atlanta this past week and, if so, it would be their first loss in almost a year.

The best teams they have beaten so far are Columbia, Memphis Central and Science Hill.

2. Oakland is in second for various reasons.

The Lady Pats are very experienced, have fabulous coaching and are talented at every spot.

They do have an injury at the center spot, but transfer Shelby Gibson should be back by the second Riverdale game. Her absence from the middle may cost the Patriots a second-place finish.

In the meantime, Oakland is balanced, has a terrific forward in Ellen Riggins and an excellent point guard in Emily Eubank.

They began their season 13-0.

3. Blackman is too young to finish first or second aren’t they? Aren’t they?

Probably, but they may prove me wrong.

Make no mistake, Coach Chad Hibdon and staff do an excellent job and they have talent.

Sophomore Alex Johnson is fast improving at forward, Crystal Dangerfield is a very talented guard and Jazz Bond is a 6’ 3” shot blocking center.

Both Dangerfield and Bond are freshmen and both are about to be pushed to the limit.

Bond, in fact, is about to be pushed, held, elbowed and generally mistreated by the opposition. How she responds will be critical.

I think this team is a year away from district success but certainly not a year away from a bunch of wins and at least a Region trip.

The Blaze also opened at 13-0.

4. Siegel is a nice looking balanced team with little depth, lots of hustle and no true post player.

Coach Alan Bush picked up his 300th win not long ago and has convinced this team to overachieve. The Lady Stars had double-digit wins before Christmas. The Stars are an upset away from moving up or down a spot.

5. Smyrna could finish fourth, but I don’t see an upset of any of the top three and I don’t think the Lady Bulldogs can beat Siegel twice.

They may improve faster than I think but have not beaten anyone of consequence yet. They did play state-ranked Science Hill tough, as well as Rossview.

I may have under estimated the Lady Bulldogs. We shall see.

6. My friend, Coach Kim Francis, inherited a disaster two years ago and until players arrive at La Vergne, the losing will continue.

The Lady Wolverines are better this year but are a long way from being able to compete in 7AAA.

Blaze lead boys field
In boys the order of finish will be Blackman, Siegel, La Vergne /Oakland –(tie), Smyrna and Riverdale and here’s why.

1. Blackman is not well coached, they are brilliantly coached.

The Blaze are deep, talented, experienced and off to a terrific start with an average margin of victory of more than 20.

They are led by a true star and the county’s best player, Darius Thompson, who is unselfish and has a wide array of talent including a great passing game and an apparent lack of ego. The supporting cast is excellent, balanced and has good size plus they work hard.

If you are not in shape and don’t hustle, you get to sit with Coach Barry Wortman. The right man is coaching the right type of team at the right time: It doesn’t happen often.

2. Siegel was recently described to me as organized chaos.

That’s half right.

The Stars are quick, athletic, deep and appear to be hungry after last year’s 11 losses.

They use their quickness and speed to great advantage on defense and play with semi-reckless abandon. Unfortunately they play offense the same way and the result is tons of bad shots and turnovers.

This sounds like last season and the problem wasn’t fixed then either.

Robert Brandon, who recently had a 30-point game, is the best player and he has plenty of help.

A win over Clarksville NE is probably Siegel's most impressive victory.

Even with Blackman in the same district, the Stars could get to Murphy Center again if they fix their offensive game. I hope they get better by going to Alaska, if not, it was a huge waste of time and money.

3. I have La Vergne and Oakland tied for third.

The two have good pre-January records, but the competition level has restricted growth and I’m just not certain if either team is an elite district team.

I do think they could split their two games, but I also think if either team beats the other twice, it will be La Vergne that does so. La Vergne also has the best chance to “upset” Siegel and take second.

La Vergne is good enough for a high finish. They are quick and have (for a change) good size, and Coach Chris Chambers is solid. Wins over Mt. Juliet, Christian County, Ky., and Clarksville were impressive

5. Oakland is getting better and is ready to finish this high.

True, the Patriots are young and still inexperienced, but Coach Mike Wright has driven them hard.

They recently beat Franklin County by 31 points and then lost by one to the same team just a few days later.

That worries me; this is a talented team with a big upside and a bright future.

6. Smyrna has only two seniors and is likely a year away from a high district finish.

The Bulldogs have good size, decent speed and excellent depth. What they appear to need is time and structure on offense.

They, like Siegel, often play way too fast for their own good. Their  1-3-1 zone is a difficult defense to learn and difficult to attack. I could be under estimating the Bulldogs to place them in fifth.

7. Riverdale is an upset away from fifth or even fourth.

An early season overtime win over Independence and a recent win over Millington impressed me.

When the Warriors shoot well and listen to Coach Kevin Woodson, they win.

Last year’s team often did neither. This year’s team appears to be more mature and ready.

They play hard and don’t seem to have the off the floor problems of last season.

Thomaz Gray is probably their best player, and they have a steadily improving but very inconsistent 6’ 7” Logan Thigpen in the middle.
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Basketball, Blackman, High School, Riverdale, Sports
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