McGavock is giving every indication that a changing of the guard in underway in District 12-AAA boys basketball.
Hunters Lane has been the dominant program for years, but McGavock has started to turn the tide. After their 66-58 district win over Hillwood Friday, the Raiders are unbeaten and in first place in the district at 7-0 (15-4 overall).
Veteran coach Marlin Simms maintains he does not think in those terms – at least not yet.
“Hunters Lane has been good for a very long time, and we’re still working toward that level,” he said.
Despite the graduation of last year’s leading scorer, LaDareus Palmer, Simms has kept his team on an upward trajectory. Nine players scored in the win over the Toppers, led by senior guard C.J. McEwen, who poured in 26.
“I really like this team and as a coach I am becoming a little more comfortable with them in late game situations,” Simms said. “We have three guys averaging in double figures, four averaging better than nine and all five better than seven points per game.”
The offensive load starts with McEwen. He leads the team at 14 points per game. Seventeen of his game-high 26 points Friday came in the second half as the Raiders sent a big homecoming crowd home happy.
“We have a good group of guys, and we’re working hard toward getting to our goals,” McEwen said. “We’ve put ourselves into a position where we’ve reached first place.”
McGavock has won nine straight since a loss to Hillsboro in early December.
“We’ve got a good run going, and we’ve played really well since around Christmas,” McEwen said. “My job is to try to get the ball to our shooters, and they have done a great job of making shots.
“… If we keep working the way we have so far, we can get [to the state tournament].”
The win over Hillwood was the type of game McGavock may well have lost in recent years. After breaking a 22-22 tie late in the second quarter, the Raiders inched ahead, held off a couple of late Topper charges and won by hitting four-of-six free throws in the final minute.
DeAnthony Patrick and Rhyse Randolph scored eight points each, and Jason Bender and James Ladd had seven and five for the balanced Raiders.
“We have a very big week ahead of us,” Simms said. “We play Cane Ridge at home Tuesday, then Overton on the road Friday.”
If the Raiders keep things rolling, it will set up a big showdown against Hunters Lane Feb. 8 at home. McGavock defeated the Warriors 62-60 on Jan. 11 on the road. It’s Hunters Lane’s only district defeat.
• CPA suspensions: Christ Presbyterian Academy coach Drew Maddux suspended three players – leading scorer Jalen Lindsey, Braxton Bonds and Connor Zelenik – for one game last week for what he called “a violation of team rules.”
The Lions beat Nashville Central Christian 62-45 without them.
They will return for CPA’s District 10-AA home game Tuesday against East Nashville, the start of a big week for the Lions who visit Whites Creek Friday, then host Ensworth Saturday in a battle of 2012 state champions. CPA won in Class AA and Ensworth was the Division II winner.
An overflow crowd is expected for Saturday’s doubleheader, which starts at 6 p.m. The girls game is nearly as big a matchup given that CPA’s girls also won the 2012 Class AA crown and Ensworth’s girls advanced to the Division II state tournament.
• Blade is back: Scott Blade, who was head football coach at Hillsboro High for three seasons before he went to Oak Ridge, has returned to Middle Tennessee to resume his coaching career. Blade, who guided the Burros to the Class 4A state championship in 2008, was named head coach at Independence High last week.
Blade cited a desire to be closer to his family, which lives in nearby Spring Hill, as a main reason for the change.
His teams compiled a 35-15 four-year record at Oak Ridge and went 37-5 at Hillsboro, including the 10-7 Class 4A state championship victory over Maryville in 2008.
• Wrestling rivalry: One of the big wrestling meets of the season will come 7 p.m. Saturday when Montgomery Bell Academy visits Father Ryan. The Irish are ranked No. 4 and MBA is No. 12 in the latest state coaches’ wrestling poll.
• State Bowling: The TSSAA state bowling tournament will be held Thursday through Saturday at Smyrna Bowling Center.