The holiday tournaments are in the books, capping what was an entertaining first half of the high school basketball season. There was no shortage of quality basketball played right here in the tri-county area during the past two months. We have surprise teams that are on the rise, and we have great teams that are primed to contend for regional and state titles.
It was an exciting start, but the real fun begins now with the start of the second half of the season. Here’s a few things to keep an eye on as our local teams begin their stretch runs:
- Will any of the boys teams seperate themselves from the pack in Class 6A, Area 15? This is arguably the toughest area in the state from top to bottom. No. 1 Bob Jones, No. 7 Florence, No. 10 Austin and unranked Decatur all have talented teams capable of going far in the postseason. Austin is currently 2-1 against Area 15 opponents, but the Black Bears looked out of sync while going 0-2 in the Huntsville Times Classic. Decatur, on the other hand, appears to be on the rise, and the Red Raiders’ lineup will be getting a huge boost in the coming weeks when starting post player Kendrick Cowan returns from a hand injury. Keep an eye on this race, because the two teams that advance out of the Area 15 tournament could very well be playing in the Northwest Regional final.
- Contenders, contenders and more contenders. That’s what we have with our local girls teams. The area is rich with talented teams this season. The unfortunate part is that several of these teams are in the same classification. In Class 5A, Brewer, Athens and Lawrence County all have teams capable of making it to the Final Four. There’s a similar situation in Class 3A, where Clements, West Morgan and Danville all reside in the same brutal area. Which teams will break through? Who knows? There’s not a wide gap between these teams. But one thing is certain, though. The odds that there will be a local team representing both classifications in the Final Four are very good.
- The quality girls basketball doesn’t stop in the classifications mentioned above. Class 6A No. 5 Austin is having its best season since 2005-06, while R.A. Hubbard, led by junior superstar Alex Gholston, appears primed to compete for a second straight Class 1A state title.
- Speaking of state title contenders, how about the Tanner boys? Currently going about 10 deep, the Class 2A No. 1 Rattlers cruised through December. Matthew Hines, Greg Maclin and company practically have everyone back from last season’s championship team, and the Rattlers have lived up to the preseason hype.
- A couple surprise teams emerged in the area during the first half of the season. On the boys side, Class 4A Priceville (14-2) and Class 3A Elkmont (9-5) are off to their best starts in years. Class 4A West Limestone (12-4) has done the same thing on the girls side. Will these remarkable runs continue? I wouldn’t bet against them, so don’t be surprised when these three are playing in the Northwest Regional in February.
- Speaking of the Northwest Regional, two local Class 4A boys teams have that week circled. These two teams also feature two of the best players you’ve probably never seen. East Lawrence guard Orlando Davis is fantastic. Averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds per game, he’s definitely one of the most entertaining players in tri-county area. West Limestone forward Preston Herring, an Austin Peay signee, isn’t too shabby himself. If you’ve never seen this kid play, then head to a local gym and check him out. You won’t be disappointed.
So many storylines. So much good basketball. Watching all of this play out is going to be entertaining, and that’s a gurantee.