Regardless of where they reside in the district standings, there is always one constant with the M.L. King Royals — they play royal defense.
Veteran coach James (Doc) Shelton, the doctor of defense, relies on that familiar recipe for keeping his team in virtually every game. That’s a big reason opposing coaches in the district will tell you Shelton’s team is one they hate to play as tournament time draws near.
MLK held rival Hume-Fogg to single digits in each of the first three quarters Friday en route to an easy 61-37 victory in the third installment of Magnet Madness. The games were moved to Allen Arena due to inauguration ceremonies at Municipal Auditorium.
With the win, MLK improved 4-8 overall, 3-4 in district play. Next up is a home game Tuesday against Pearl-Cohn.
With a lineup that struggles to score, it’s the sticky man to man defense that keeps the Royals in games.
MLK leads the district and is one of the top teams in Nashville in average points allowed — 48.8 points per game. Its offense averages 49.1 points scored.
As the five guys in the MLK section at courtside had painted on their stomachs — “3 FOR 3” — the Royals have beaten their rival in this annual matchup between the two Nashville magnet schools in each of the three Magnet Madness events.
Senior guard Brandon Crowder again led the Royals with a game-high 21 points and four assists as they bolted out to a 17-7 lead. A run of 13 straight points a short time later made it 30-11.
“As a senior, this is my last chance to get to state, and if we keep playing with this level of teamwork and defense, we’re going to get there,” the 5-foot-11 Crowder said. “We’re playing with a great deal of unselfishness, and of course, our defense is key.
“When we look up on that gym wall and see those state championship banners, it just motivates me more.”
More than anyone else, Shelton continues to remember his old coach, the late Cornelius Ridley, and to look skyward for advice.
“On any given situation in a game, I will ask myself ‘What would he [Ridley] do,’” Shelton said. “God gave me the opportunity to coach under him and at age 51, I’m still learning from what he taught me.”
That would include defense.
“Our guys play hard and they take pride in defense,” Shelton said. “We don’t always play that well, but we do play hard.”
• MLK coach Martin hospitalized: MLK assistant and Middle School coach Kenny Martin underwent a recent operation to correct a blockage in his colon. Last week, Martin fell ill and was taken to Baptist Hospital and had part of the colon removed.
He is expected to leave the hospital sometime this week.
In the meantime, coaching the middle school team has fallen to Shelton and members of his staff.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him,” Shelton said. “He seems to be doing much better.”
• Hume-Fogg girls avenge earlier loss: The Hume-Fogg girls won the opening half of Magnet Madness. They held off a late rally by MLK, won 41-35 and avenged a 45-26 loss to the Royals on Nov. 30.
“We were missing one of our key players, Jamie Johnson, in the earlier game,” coach Angela Hubbard said. “Our offense struggled, but our defense played well.”
The Blue Knights improved to 8-6 overall, 4-4 in the district.
MLK, a doormat in 10-AA for years, has made marked improvement under first-year coach Lindy Brown-King. After playing one of their worst games of the season Friday, MLK is still 7-7 and 4-3 in the district and led by Jalyn Burr and Sydney Sims.
• G.P. West/Bruin Wrestling: McCallie easily won the annual G.P. West Invitational Wrestling tournament Saturday at Brentwood High. The Tornados scored 221 points. Ravenwood was runner-up with 170. Austin Woods of Franklin, which finished fourth, won the 130-pound weight division.
• Bagwell shines at Freed: Maria Bagwell, who led Hume-Fogg to the 2009 girls state tournament (the school’s first state trip since 1927), is playing well as a starter at Freed-Hardeman. The 5-foot-9 sophomore guard is averaging 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds.
The Lions play in the Nashville area Feb. 5 at Cumberland and Feb. 17 at Trevecca.
• Still at MTSU: The TSSAA Board Control voted 5-4 last week to keep the DI boys and girls state basketball tournaments at the MTSU Murphy Center site for two more seasons, 2012 and 2013.
MTSU and Murfreesboro won out over bids by Tennessee Tech and Chattanooga. The boys’ tournament has been at MTSU since 1975, and the girls event has been there since 1989.
• CPA-Maplewood game Thursday: CPA boys basketball coach Drew Maddux announced that last week’s postponed home game with district foe Maplewood has been re-scheduled for Thursday night.