Is it possible for a defending champion to be flying into the state tournament a little under the radar? That appears to be the case for Montgomery Bell Academy.
The Big Red has played in the shadow of rival Ensworth, which moved to the top of the AP DII prep poll much on the strength of two regular season wins over MBA.
“We really haven’t looked at it like that [flying under the radar],” eighth-year coach Kevin Anglin who has taken his team to state four times, said. “This is a completely new season, a new team, new group. We’re still growing, going through the maturation process and just trying to improve a day at a time.”
The Big Red (19-8) finished last season with a red-hot three-game sweep in sectionals and state and is looking to follow the same path toward victory this week.
They meet Ensworth (25-3) in the DII-AA semis Friday night at Lipscomb. After two regular season losses to Ensworth last year, the Big Red beat Ensworth in the same semifinal round 84-80. Then they beat CBHS in the final.
They hope history will repeat itself.
“We’ve played much more consistently in the last three weeks, and we showed a lot of mental toughness in the win in Memphis,” Anglin said. “I’m very proud of how well we played in Memphis in sectionals, especially after they (MUS) beat us in December.”
Senior Chase Owen and juniors Austin Blackwell and David Howard, all at about 12 points per game, share the scoring load. Howard, a 6-foot-8 post, leads in rebounds.
“We’ve been coming on strong lately, and we’re peaking at the right time,” Owen, a top 3-point shooter, said. “We played very poorly in our loss to Baylor and in our game where we barely beat JPII, but we’ve played well since then. The win in Memphis did a lot for our confidence.
“This is my last year, and I’m trying to exert some senior leadership.”
Owen is one of seven Big Red seniors.
“This is the seniors’ last time around,” Owen said. “We want to go out with a bang.”
• The DII-A tournament opens Thursday afternoon at Lipscomb with Franklin Road Academy playing in the first two games. At 1 p.m., the girls play Harding Academy, followed by the boys game against Jackson Christian at 2:30. Ezell-Harding’s boys make their debut versus Memphis ECS at 6:45.
DII-A State tournament
(at Allen Arena)
2:00—FRA vs. Harding Academy, girls; 3:30 – FRA vs. Jackson Christian, boys; 5:15—Fayette Academy vs. Webb, girls; 6:45—ECS vs. Ezell-Harding, boys.
11 a.m.—Girls finals; 1 p.m.—Boys finals.
DII-AA State tournament
(at Allen Arena)
2 p.m.—GPS vs. St. Benedict, girls; 3:30—McCallie vs. Briarcrest, boys; 5:15—Ensworth vs. Briarcrest, girls; 6:45—Ensworth vs. MBA, boys.
3 p.m. Girls finals; 5 p.m.—Boys finals.