Daily photo by Michael Wetzel|
First-year Elkmont coach Stace Tedford, right, instructs his players in a 56-46 win over Athens Bible in the Limestone County Tournament on Tuesday. Elkmont plays West Limestone on Friday at 8 p.m.
County tourneys can ready teams for postseason
Regardless of classification and sport, every team begins the season with the same goal: a state championship.
Only six girls basketball teams and six boys teams will end the season with that title, but there are plenty of other goals along the way that carry with them the same sense of pride and accomplishment.
This week's Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone county tournaments fit that bill.
With teams trying to earn spots in county history, gyms at the tournaments are filling up each round as players face friends in the annual matchups.
The uniqueness of the event offers a break from the regular season, but there's also plenty to play for.
Priceville's girls won their opening-round game in the Morgan County Tournament, of which they are playing host. Lady Bulldogs coach Stacey Lovett said she remembers the importance of the county tournament from her playing days and hopes her players are aware of its magnitude.
Lovett was on county championship teams, playing for Brewer coach Ricky Allen. Allen's Lady Patriot squads have 11 county championships — 1990,'94-'95, '97-2000, 2002-2005. Brewer will play Danville on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Priceville High.
"Oh, it's a big deal," Lovett said after Priceville's girls beat Falkville 70-35 on Monday night. "I realize that, and I hope my players do."
The county tournaments provide players opportunity to participate in events rich in tradition, and they're not just a schedule filler.
Several of the teams in the tri-county area look primed to make a postseason run, and the county tournament is evidence that teams can find plenty of good competition close to home.
The Lawrence County Tournament features ranked teams, including Class 1A No. 9 Hazlewood boys, as well as 1A No. 4 Hazlewood girls and 4A No. 6 Lawrence County girls.
Class 2A No. 7 Tanner boys are hosting the Limestone County Tournament and 5A No. 2 Hartselle girls are among the field in the Morgan County tournament.
Decatur, Austin and Decatur Heritage are in Morgan County but choose not to play in the tournament in favor of regular-season games, and Athens does not participate in the Limestone County competition.
Morgan County teams participating in the tournament range in size from 2A-5A.
Priceville's boys knocked off Brewer, winner of the past three county titles, 55-35 on Monday night. The Bulldogs advanced to play West Morgan on Thursday night at 8.
Tanner is attempting to defend its Limestone titles.
The Rattlers are seeking their sixth straight in the tournament that features teams from 1A-4A in size.
Lawrence County teams also vary from 1A-4A and East Lawrence's girls are defending champions along with the Lawrence County boys.
Players should realize the importance of the county competition.
And as the postseason nears, momentum from a tournament win could provide a great boost.
Brooke Milamís prep performances of note
Among the many top individual high school basketball performances recently, here are a few that caught the eye of Daily Sports Writer Brooke Milam:
Demetrius Garner, Hazlewood, Sr.: Scored game winners in back-to-back wins for the Golden Bears on Thursday and Saturday. He hit a jump shot to beat Decatur Heritage 51-49 in overtime for the Class 1A, Area 15 regular-season title before driving the length of the floor two nights later for the winning points in a 58-57 victory over Lawrence County in the opening round of the Lawrence County Tournament in Moulton
Rico Pickett, Decatur, Sr.: Impressed the Trojans as the Red Raiders clinched the 5A, Area 16 regular season with a 64-59 win at Muscle Shoals on Tuesday.
He scored 22 points, had three rebounds, seven assists, two blocked shots and three steals to pace Decatur.
Phillip Powell, West Morgan, Sr.: Scored 20 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and collected nine assists as West Morgan downed Hatton 77-49 on Friday.
Lauren Drake, Hartselle, Sr.: Led the Lady Tigers to an important 65-41 Class 5A, Area 13 win over Russellville on Saturday, scoring 20 points with nine rebounds and four steals.
Hollye Keenum, Tanner, Sr.: Scored 29 points with four rebounds and five assists Monday night, pacing the Lady Rattlers to a 73-36 win over Athens Bible to advance in the Limestone County Tournament.
Keona Shoulders, Athens, Sr.: Was 12-of-13 shooting in a competitive contest, putting up 28 points for the Lady Golden Eagles in a 64-58 win over Decatur on Friday that kept Athens undefeated in Class 5A, Area 16.