Friday night, McKenzie accomplished what few teams in West Tennessee have done before.
The Lady Rebels and Rebels won district tournament championships. Best I can recall, and I’ve lived in these parts for 48 years, McKenzie never won both boys and girls district titles in the same season. That’s not to say it’s never happened. I wasn’t around here in the 60s, when the Lady Rebels went to state, etc.
But making it even more unusual is the fact that coach John Wilkins was the coach for both boys and girls. I recall Perry Bailey at Chester County (and Gibson County) and Butch Hopkins at Dyer County had success coaching both. In 1996, the late Kevin Tuck led the Martin-Westview Lady Chargers to the state title and the Chargers to substate in the same season.
This kind of success isn’t completely unprecedented, but it is rare. Wilkins and his team deserve a lot of credit for their achievement.
I’m still curious. McKenzie’s Lady Rebels have a Miss Basketball finalist on their team in Savannah Davis. She scored 49 total points in two district tournament games. She was left off the all-district team, curiously, and shared the player-of-the-year honor with Josey Gant of Houston County. Gant’s effort was noteworthy, to be sure, but I still don’t know how you leave a sophomore, who will be on the dais for Miss Basketball next month, off the all-tournament team.
Maybe there’s a formula I’m not aware of, but there were a lot of raised eyebrows Friday night.
Regional tournaments will, for most of us, be a nice relief to the gas budget. The Region 6A tournament will be held at West Carroll while the 6AA tournament will be held at Martin-Westview.
McKenzie will be heading into the 6A tournament as a top seed, as will Camden in the 6 AA tournament. Westview’s girls are the top seeds in their half of their own event. Consider that there will be four Miss Basketball finalist in these tournaments (Davis of McKenzie, Alayna Anderson of Gleason in Class A, Jada Harrin of Westview and Madison Hart of Gibson County in Class AA). This is what you like to see in these kinds of events.
Both boys’ and girls’ events will be exciting, to be sure. The regional semifinal games are the most pressure-packed games of the season. This is where teams separate themselves from the pack.
I sort of figured that Tennessee might drop the chalupa against Arkansas Saturday. I worried that the Vols might be living in the past a bit after beating Kentucky last Thursday night. That was an exciting game at Thompson-Boling Arena, but the Vols had a tough challenge on the road at Arkansas. The Hogs knocked Auburn from the perch last week, so it was stood to reason the Vols would be in for a tussle.
The loss ends an eight-game SEC winning streak. The good news about a streak ending is that a new one can begin. Auburn comes to town soon. The Vols certainly can rehab themselves after the setback to the Hogs.
Meanwhile, the Lady Vols suffered a puzzling loss to Alabama. I sort of figured that might happen, too, especially when South Carolina, one of the nation’s top teams, is on the docket.
It seemed the Lady Vols were on a roll. Now they have a big challenge ahead. Jordan Horston is out for a few weeks with a dislocated elbow. With Keyen Green gone and Horston out, the Lady Vols need to circle the wagons and pull together.
If not, South Carolina will win in a walk-over.
Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and host of The Pressbox, which airs 4-6 p.m. CT, Monday-Thursday, on WRJB, 95.9 FM, Camden, Tenn.