After some mid-season speed bumps, it looks like the Ezell-Harding boys are ready to race full speed into the tournaments.
The Eagles were 6-0 and leading all Nashville teams in scoring in early December, with an average of almost 80 per game, with an up-tempo and fullcourt pressure style of play.
Recently, injury and illness issues slowed them.
Senior Hayden Ray missed much of the last month with a high ankle sprain. Junior Corey Teague had a recent bout with the flu just returned to action after missing several games. He got back in the lineup Friday and scored seven points in Ezell’s 49-45 win over Webb School.
With a week to go before their DII tournament opener, the pieces appear to be back in place for the Eagles (18-6 and 9-1 in DII-A).
“We were in a real groove for awhile,” coach Deron Freudenthal said. “Then we got hit with the injury and illness problems that slowed us down. Once we get everyone back, we should be ready for the tournaments.”
On senior night, it was senior Blake Mitchell who helped Ezell rally from an 11-point halftime. Mitchell, who finished with nine points, scored consecutive hoops and put Ezell in front for good at 32-29 in the third quarter.
“We came out asleep and we played sloppy that first half,” Mitchell, who was also the quarterback on the Eagle football team, said. “I looked up at the scoreboard and I was thinking I certainly didn’t want my senior night to end up like that, and we came out firing in the third quarter.”
Actually, it wasn’t the final home game for the four seniors – Mitchell, Ray, Brian Duncan and Rodney Corder.
They host FRA Thursday night in a makeup of a snowed-out game last month. Ezell is hoping Ray will be available for that one.
The winner will clinch the No. 2 seed in DII Middle/East, behind first place Donelson Christian Academy which edged Ezell Jan. 14 to take over first place.
The tournaments open next week. The top four seeds get home games on Feb. 14, which are elimination games. Sectionals are in Knoxville Feb. 25-26.
At that time, the Eagles will try to evoke memories of Ezell’s 26-5 state championship run in 1998, which, ironically, was coached by current DCA coach Pressley Ramsey.
After a stern chewing out by Freudenthal both during the second quarter and at halftime, the Eagles finally managed to steer themselves back into the game against Webb.
“We really came out flat,” Zach Jenkins, who led Ezell with 15 points and hit seven threes in a recent game, said. “Then we finally got a wake up call. I hope we can use this some momentum going into the FRA game and then the tournaments.”
Sophomore sparkplug point guard Austin Gee hit four key free throws in the final 3:12 to keep Ezell front. He also made a big play.
Within five seconds late in the third quarter, Gee committed a turnover, made a steal, then dished off an assist to Duncan which sparked a 12-2 Eagle run.
Next up is a visit to Columbia Academy Monday night.
• CPA’s Allsmiller leads Nashville in 3s: Even though he is just the third-leading scorer on the team, Christ Presbyterian Academy freshman Jake Allsmiller leads all of Nashville with 73 three-point baskets (almost three per game) for the Lions, who are 22-4.
Allsmiller, son of CPA assistant and former Vanderbilt standout Brian Allsmiller, is averaging 11.0 points per game.
He scored 21 (seven threes) in a 90-64 win over Pearl-Cohn on Saturday. He had six in CPA’s overtime loss at Maplewood on Friday.
CPA has a big week. The Lions visit Lipscomb Tuesday, then host Maplewood in a makeup game Thursday which likely will be for the 10-AA title.
• Semifinal stumbles at state wrestling: Franklin Road Academy and Father Ryan finished in third and fourth place, respectively, in their respective DII state wrestling tournaments Saturday at the Williamson County Expo Center in Franklin.
Defending DII-AA champion Ryan lost to eventual champ Chattanooga Baylor 39-20 in the semifinals, then lost to McCallie 38-29 in the third- place match.
FRA lost to Knoxville Webb in the DII smaller classes semis 52-30, then finished third with a 48-30 win over St. Andrews-Sewanee.
The best area finish in DI was by Ravenwood in Class AAA. The Raptors lost to eventual champ and top-ranked Bradley 34-30 in the semifinals, then beat Science Hill 37-22 for third.
East Lit, the A/AA state runner-up last year, won its first round match, lost to Pigeon Forge 52-25 in the semifinals, then lost to Stone Memorial 39-30 in the consolation semis.
Next up are the region individual tournaments this week, followed by the state individual championships at the Expo Center Feb. 17-19.