Hartselle, Priceville enter opener with mystery
By Mark Edwards
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High school basketball gets under way for Hartselle and Priceville on Tuesday night when the two area powers face off.
Hartselle's girls will host Priceville at 6 p.m., followed by the two boys teams playing at 7:30 p.m.
This is the third season the two teams have played a home-and-home series. Last year, they split the two boys regular-season contests, and Hartselle took a 56-36 win in the Morgan County tournament finals. Hartselle's girls swept three games from Priceville, including two regular-season games and the county tourney semifinals.
All four squads have decidedly different looks for the new season.
Hartselle's boys lost all five starters, but Tigers coach Johnny Berry said he likes his team.
The Tigers' top returning player is 6-foot-2 forward Alex Brown, who averaged 9.3 points and 3.3 rebounds last year for a team that won the Class 5A, Area 13 championship. Also, brothers Marquez Jones and Manquez Jones, a pair of juniors, are back at guard.
"We've got some young guys, and we're not real big," Berry said. "But we have a lot of guys who play hard."
Hartselle won 20 games last season after posting only two victories the previous year. Berry said his team is focusing on sustaining the success.
"The kids have brought that up," Berry said. "They want to continue what last year's team did."
Priceville coach Darrell Haynes said his team has lost nine seniors from a year ago, when the Bulldogs made it to the state's sub-regional round. The biggest loss was all-state guard Josh Bedwell, who averaged 24.8 points a game and scored 2,276 points for his prep career.
Bedwell plays for Samford now and scored three points in a 50-49 season-opening win over Evansville.
The only varsity player returning is JaColby Reid, a junior guard who averaged 6.6 points a game last season. The team's lone senior is Ryan Halbrooks.
"We've got a real young team, but they play hard and they love to play," Haynes said. "We have a lot of unknowns, a lot of question marks. But I'm excited about it."
As for the girls teams, Priceville did not lose any seniors, but the squad has a new coach — Catrina Mason, who replaces Stacey Lovett.
Mason has spent six years in the Priceville program and coached the middle school team. She coached the varsity during the 2003-04 season when Lovett stepped aside because of a pregnancy.
Mason said she has two seniors, Abbie Harris and Adrianna Delatorre, who have plenty of experience.
"They've played since they were ninth-graders," Mason said.
Mason said she has tried to get her team to believe it can compete with Hartselle. In the three meetings last season, Hartselle won all three by an average of 33 points a game.
"I've tried to get it in their heads that they have the ability," Mason said. "I hope they think they can win — if we play the way we're capable of playing."
Hartselle lost three important starters from last year's team, which advanced to the Class 5A Final Four. All-state forward Lauren Drake and all-area players Mary Virginia Reeves and Jessica Andrews have graduated.
However, starting guards Anna Reeves (5-8) and Jessie Smith (5-9) are back, along with two top reserves from a year ago — guard Lauren Dye (5-6) and forward Heather Speegle (5-11). All four are seniors.
"The scoring will come from a lot of different places this year, but we'll be a little more up-tempo than last year," Hartselle coach Greg Adams said.
"We'll be deeper than last year. I feel good about our team. We have four of our top seven back."
All three of last year's squads advanced to the Northwest Regional, and Adams said that sets a standard the current team wants to meet.
"One of the good things about the success we've had is that the expectations are where they're at," Adams said.
Morgan County showdown
Who: Priceville vs. Hartselle.
Where: Pettey Center at Hartselle High.
When: Tuesday. The girls varsity game starts at 6 p.m., while the boys play at 7:30.
Stakes: This is the third year the two teams have played regularly. Hartselle’s boys took two of three last year, while the Hartselle girls swept all three matchups with Priceville.
Tickets: Individual tickets are $4 at the gate.
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