There is not a better opening round matchup in the TSSAA Class AA boys state basketball tournament than this one.
Top-ranked Christ Presbyterian Academy drew No. 3 Spring Hill for its opening round opponent, the last of four AA quarterfinal games, 3:15 p.m. Wednesday at MTSU.
It’s a clash of the two highest-ranked teams remaining. Bolivar, ranked second in the most recent Associated Press poll, was eliminated in the region tournament.
CPA (34-2) has been ranked No. 1 since December, when the Lions won the Best of the Bluegrass tournament in Kentucky then finished third in the Arby’s Classic in Bristol.
Spring Hill (30-1) dropped its opener almost four months ago but carries a 30-game win streak into this contest. Spring Hill’s 30th straight win came over David Lipscomb, 71-55, in sectionals.
The Raiders, who are led by point guard Kielen Blanks, a 6-foot senior, and 6-foot-3 senior post Montrae Williams, since have avenged that loss. They defeated Summertown 95-44 on Jan. 2, roughly six weeks after they lost by one, 51-50, to that same opponent.
“It’s an extremely tall task for us,” CPA coach Drew Maddux said just after the pairings meeting Saturday. “They are a senior-laden team and they have a terrific point guard in Kielen Blanks. But everyone is good here at state. You just can’t worry about that, you have to work on the things you can control.’’
Jimmy Young is now in his 19th year as Spring Hill coach, has his team back in the state tournament for the first time since 1999.
“I really like our team,” Young said. “It’s a group that really plays hard every game, that’s the key for us. We don’t ever look too far ahead, and we really don’t even talk about the streak.
“We have a dependable point guard in Kielen, we have a veteran team around him and a good bench. We are very balanced, anyone can be our leading scorer on a given night.”
Both teams average close to 80 points a game.
CPA’s top guns are Belmont-bound guard Craig Bradshaw and post Jalen Lindsey, both Mr. Basketball finalists. Vanderbilt and Tennessee, among several other Division I college programs, already have made scholarship offers to Lindsey.
Both average about 17 points a game. And wing Jake Allsmiller recently broke the school’s single season record for 3-pointers made with 105. As a sophomore, he recently got an offer from Vanderbilt, where his father Brian played.
“CPA has a very talented team, a great combination of outside shooters as well as the Lindsey kid inside,” Young said. “They are extremely hard to defend.”
The teams last met in the region tournament in 2008, the last time CPA made ot to the state tournament. That year, the Lions lost a heartbreaking quarterfinal game to Dyer County on a last-second shot.
• TV time: The TSSAA network has announced that all state tournament games this week will be broadcast live on the Tennessee Public TV Council stations across the state.
In Nashville, the games will be on WNPT-TV (Channel 8).