With the football rust finally starting to wear off its key players, Ensworth looks like it is polishing up for a strong stretch run in basketball.
Behind 11 3-pointers (on 12 attempts), Ensworth held off rival Montgomery Bell Academy 75-66 last Friday and looked to be on track to defend its DII-AA state title.
Coach Ricky Bowers wasn’t ready to concede, even a month later, that some of the key players were completely beyond the effects for their state championship football season.
“We’re not there yet,” he said. “We still have some issues with ball handling, there were times we didn’t seem very interested in taking care of the ball. We still have lots of room to improve.”
However, guards Andrew Bowers and Will Downey (both football players) led the 3-point parade with three each. And Mr. Football winner Corn Elder led all scorers with 18 points and one 3-pointer.
Before a packed house of about 1,200 fans at MBA, Downey’s third 3 came after an offensive rebound and kickout by Keshonn Carter. That finally gave the Tigers their biggest lead, 61-53 lead early in the final quarter.
MBA got within two, 62-60, before Ensworth closed it out with a 13-6 run.
It was a matchup of the last two teams to win DII state championships – MBA (2010) and Ensworth (2011).
“My teammates did a great job of screening and getting me open,” said the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Downey. “We worked all week on those plays. It was great to see that shot go down. It was an awesome atmosphere for high school basketball.”
Added Andrew Bowers, put Ensworth ahead to stay at 46-45 with a 3-pointer: “The shots started falling for us in the second half. We were a little sloppy the first half, but the second half we played better.”
Ensworth stayed atop the DII race at 12-4 overall and 3-1. MBA fell to 9-5, 2-2.
A terrible Friday the 13th when heavy TSSAA sanctions came down on the school (one of them being having to vacate the 2010 basketball title), ended even worse for MBA with the loss.
Rugged 6-foot-8 post player David Howard led the Big Red with 17 points, and guard Austin Blackwell added 11.
• Puzzling postponements: One of the coaches who sat idly by on Friday night with the barrage of Metro games postponed by weather concerns was East Lit boys basketball coach Jim Fey. His team’s game at Harpeth was called off.
The vast majority of games in Metro were postponed after a prediction of snow on Thursday and despite no inclement weather or noticeable traces of snow on Friday, even with Metro schools out.
“It’s each [Metro] principal’s decision,” Fey, whose team reached the AA state finals last year, said. “I understand safety concerns, but there was no reason on earth we shouldn’t have been playing.
“With a lot of our [District 11-AA] coaches having both Thursday and Friday games called off last week, it’s going to crowd up our schedule late in the season. And schools like us with wrestling teams, along with middle schools, it affects your rescheduling there, too.
“[Former Metro director of schools] Pedro Garcia got all this started [five years ago] when he didn’t let schools out soon enough on a day it really snowed hard. Kids got stranded and we’ve been overreacting ever since.
“I heard on the radio this week that telling Nashville school officials that it might snow is liking saying someone’s getting on an airplane with a bomb.”
Whites Creek’s Ricky Collins was another coach in the same boat. He saw his boys district home game with David Lipscomb postponed Friday.
“It makes it tough, particularly on the rescheduling,” Collins said. “It creates a little cabin fever for coaches, because we really want to play. But it’s out of our control.
“You get into a routine, you’re ready to play, then you get postponed. It’s tough.”
McGavock, which hosted Hunters Lane, and Hillsboro, which hosted Centennial, were among the few Metro teams that played home games s scheduled on Friday.
• Bowling: David Lipscomb won both the boys and girls District 12 bowling championships last week. Lipscomb beat Hume-Fogg in the girls final, and the Mustangs beat M.L. King in the boys final.
In District 9, Hunters Lane beat East Lit for the girls title and Goodpasture topped Maplewood in the boys final.
In District 11, Franklin beat Independence on the girls side, but the Independence boys claimed the title with a victory over Overton.
All will compete in region tournaments Tuesday and Thursday. The state tournament is Jan. 26-28 at Smyrna Bowling Center.
In the DII Middle Region girls’ tournament, Pope John Paul II beat Father Ryan 16-11, and Ensworth outscored University School of Nashville 21-6.
• Wrestling: Father Ryan, which breezed to the championship of its recent Ryan Invitational tournament, remains No. 3 in this week’s coaches state high school wrestling poll.
Christian Brothers and Soddy Daisy are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, and MBA is No. 10.
Ryan and MBA stage their annual showdown 6 p.m., Jan. 28 at MBA in one of the top matches of the regular season.
Next up for Ryan is the prestigious Prep Slam tournament in Atlanta Friday and Saturday.
• Contract extension: The TSSAA voted at its board of control meeting last week to extend the contract of executive director Bernard Childress for another three years.
Childress succeeded long-time director Ronnie Carter in 2009.
• Another award: Brentwood Academy senior Graham Shuler was named the 2012 Doc Blanchard Award winner for the East team by the U.S. Army during the All-American Bowl last week in San Antonio, Tex.
The award recognizes excellence in community service, education and athletic distinction.
• Long-standing record: Monday marks the 53rd anniversary of Bobby Langley’s 69-point performance for Franklin High in a win over Lewisburg on Jan. 16, 1959 in Franklin. The point total remains a Middle Tennessee record.
He scored another record 30 points the final quarter.