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West Tennessee Converges on the ‘Boro 

What a weekend it was for West Tennessee basketball teams.

A passle of nearby girls’ basketball teams stamped their passports for Murfreesboro and the state tournament.

The Murphy Center will certainly have a decidedly West Tennessee favor this week. Why?

Let’s start with the McKenzie Lady Rebels, who enter the eight-team Class A draw ranked No. 1 in the state, according to the Associated Press, with a 28-2 mark. If things went well Monday night, the McKenzie boys could be prospecting for gold next week (boys’ substate results were not known at presstime).

McKenzie has the rare distinction of winning both boys and girls district and regional tournaments. Even more rare is the fact that McKenzie’s football team played for a state football championship in December and sent its girls golf team to the state tournament back in the fall.

Additionally, the Lady Rebels qualified for state for the first time since 1963, when the late Patti Edwards, who would later become McKenzie’s mayor, was the Rebelettes’ leading scorer.

Gleason and Dresden punched their tickets to MTSU with substate victories and will join McKenzie in the Class A draw. But Weakley County will have another combatant enter the fray. Martin-Westview defeated top-ranked Loretto in the sectional game and will face Riverside, another West Tennessee team in the first round of the 2A draw.

Weakley County is no stranger to the tourney. In 1990, both Gleason and Dresden reached girls’ state. Two years later, the Lady Bulldogs claimed the first of three state titles, beating Celina 52-44 for the ’92 crown. Gleason won it all again in 1999 and 2007.

Greenfield, who bowed out in a tough regional semifinal game, won the gold ball in 2018 and many believe would have won another in 2020 had it not been for the pandemic.

Westview reached state in 1995, bowing to Marshall County in the first round, but returned to claim the gold ball in ’96. The Lady Chargers beat Livingston Academy, who had two Miss Basketball finalists on its roster. The game was settled when Tasha Atkins hit two free throws with seven-tenths of a second left. In 1995, Gleason’s girls also were in the Class A draw. The 1996 tournament was known as the Highway 45 tournament. Bradford (Class A), Westview (2A) and JCM (3A) each won state titles, and all are on U.S. 45.

That ’96 final was one of the most thrilling games I’d ever covered. The Lady Chargers were state runners up in 2019.

This is the first time I can remember three teams from Weakley (dare I say four, since part of McKenzie is within the county’s boundaries?) qualified.

Gibson County upended Summertown to earn its way east. The Lady Pioneers are coached by Mitch Wilkins, father of McKenzie coach John Wilkins.  Mitch’s Lady Pioneers beat Loretto 50-42 to win the Class A girls’ tournament in 2019.

Dyer County is heading to the 3A tournament after beating Melrose in substate. The Lady Choctaws had a crack at the state crown when they were 33-0 but lost in the second round of the sectional tournament to Lexington. Maybe this is their year.

With all these West Tennessee teams in the mix, we surely should bring home some hardware this year, but when you get to this level, it’s never easy.

Best of luck to our local teams.

Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox, which airs 4-6 p.m. CT, Monday-Thursday on 95.9 FM WRJB radio, Camden, Tenn.

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