Published: February 23, 2013
In 1965, the undefeated Murfreesboro Central Tigers went to Memphis and won the boys state basketball championship.
Every year since, many people ask if a county team could win it again? The answer is yes, but I think we can agree that a 47-year drought may constitute a trend.
Rutherford County has had state champions in just about every sport. Before 1965, many boys teams, including the Tigers, had been in the state but never won it.
The Tigers went back after 1965 but never got a second title before the school closed in 1972.
Eagleville has been more than once, while Smyrna has never been. La Vergne has never been but ironically Blackman coach Barry Wortman was one sub-state basket away from having the Wolverines at Murphy Center not long ago. Then he left for Morehead.
Coach T.L. Hopkins had Riverdale in the second round of the state once but victory slipped away when the Warriors excellent point guard Leon Corder suffered a severe injury.
Blackman has had one chance and lost by one point in the first round to Memphis East, who eventually won the state by a single point. Now that is close.
Siegel, under coach Chris Harris and now Ben Dotson, has made the state and generally played well, but so far, no title.
Oakland – under coach Dickie Thomas, a Tiger point guard in 1965, and later coach Randy King, who set so many coaching records at Oakland they named the gym for him – went to the state numerous times and came agonizingly close.
Why don’t we do this? I submit two major reasons.
First, the opposition is fierce. Chattanooga Brainard and Howard, Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett High School, Science Hill, Bradley Central and many Memphis teams come to mind.
Second, the mindless, short-sighted and lazy way the TSSAA insists on “seeding” the tournament.
The system involves the drawing of ping-pong balls and gives the TSSAA some very brief publicity.
It virtually guarantees that the best teams often play each other in the first round. This has happened to numerous teams over the years in many divisions but seemed to happen to Oakland all the time.
This also happened to Siegel in 2010 when the ping pong balls gave them future champion, Memphis Melrose, the best team in the state. The Stars had earned a lesser opponent.
Anyway, I do have good news.
I’m going to concentrate on the Blaze because they are our best team and have earned our respect. Blackman is No. 1, which is nice but gets you no wins.
They are brilliantly coached and unbeaten. They have considerable talent, perhaps the state’s best player in Darius Thompson and have the state tournament experience of 2012. Even if the Blaze lose to state-ranked Siegel in the regional tournament this week, both teams would be in the sub-state, one game from Murphy Center.
The state has, in my judgement, about a dozen teams that appear capable of making a serious run at a state title. That’s not considering we haven’t played the region yet.
Some of these teams will lose in the region or sub-state. Only eight can make Murphy Center and there will be upsets.
One more important point, not one of the dozen is in our region or sub-state. Not one.
Remember, if you’re in the state, you don’t have to play all of the other seven teams, only the three that show up in your bracket.
Rutherford County has a good shot at repeating 1965. I hope someone does this soon, I’m rapidly getting older.
Final year-end awards
Hard luck award: Smyrna’s Brianne Alexander and Siegel’s Robert Brandon – injuries ruined their year.
Best names award: Smyrna’s Taylor Vanderbilt – sounds like a basketball player don’t you think.
Girls coach of the year: The coaches chose Riverdale’s Cory Barrett, and I certainly agree. He’s unbeaten, coaching under terrific pressure and wasn’t on campus seven months ago. Injuries ruined Smyrna, La Vergne needs more players, Oakland and Blackman excelled, and Siegel over-achieved.
Boys coach of the year: The coaches chose Wortman because he has no district losses, unbeaten in fact, and he’s No. 1 in the state.
That’s a no brainer.
Smyrna’s so young how do you judge?
La Vergne is exactly where their talent level is.
Oakland’s Mike Wright did an excellent job, especially since his ream has shooting issues. Wright pulled off the only district upset all year by beating La Vergne for third place last week.
Riverdale and Siegel both won many more games than I ever thought they would at the beginning of the year. Usually, that’s coaching.
And finally, it’s just not my nature to be negative. There is just so much positive info that can be written.
With that said, this has been a very negative year at times. Injuries, sickness and bad decisions by players, plus some of the worst parental interference in memory, affected the district race for at least half our teams.
That’s a shame, and it certainly underlines the fact that an education career and coaching in particular is a challenge.