With the start of a new year comes the heart of most schools’ basketball schedule as District 11-AAA play tips off Tuesday night.
Fans don’t have to wait long for a premier match up with district-favorite Brentwood hosting dark horse Independence on opening night.
The Bruins (15-2) come into the game with the most wins of any squad in the district and return their entire roster – except point guard Jack Montague who currently plays for Yale University – from last year’s team that reached the Class AAA sectional round.
Replacing Montague is 6-foot sophomore James McPherson who coach Dennis King calls a pass-first point guard as compared to Montague who took the majority of clutch shots for the Bruins in the past.
“It’s a learning curve,” King said of his new point guard. “He’s a bright, tough kid that brings a lot to our team.”
Surrounding the youthful guard is a wealth of talented upperclassman. Senior Asa Duvall is the team’s third-leading scorer at 13.59 a game and leads the county with 46 3-pointers while junior Andy Schumpert is second on the team with 13.67 points per game.
Cody Shelton, a 6-foot-5 senior, is the fourth-leading scorer in the county with 15.36 points per game, but missed some time last week resting an injury.
Brentwood is coming off back-to-back impressive holiday tournaments, barely being challenged in the Gateway Holiday Classic at King’s alma mater near Pittsburgh, Pa. while also showing well in the Ensworth Classic.
Independence had impressive performances as well over the Christmas break, finishing second in the Father Ryan Invitational with wins over Riverdale and LaVergne.
The Eagles (10-5) are led in scoring by 6-foot-1 junior Vic Wharton, whose 17.27 points per game is third best in the county. Senior Cam Miller is close behind with a sixth-best 13.67.
Trenton Perry, a 6-foot-3 wing player, is Indy’s 3-point threat. He has sunk 33 of Jan. 3.
The girls game features the 9-6 Lady Eagles and 6-9 Lady Bruins.
Brentwood has struggled through the early part of the season, but looks to hit full stride with district play. Paige Parker leads the team with 14.38 points per game and 16 3-pointers. Slowing her down will be key for the Indy defense.
Independence is led by Hannah Winters’ 11.58 points per game and 13 3s.
Centennial traveling to Ravenwood is the other intra-county game on opening night.
The Cougars (10-5) come in with momentum, finishing third in the Beech Holiday Tournament thanks to a 62-58 win over Beech.
Senior Matt Pond has been used differently under new coach Lawanza Crutcher. Primarily a perimeter player in years past, Pond has spent more time in the low post in games this year.
Ravenwood’s Joey Barnes, a 6-foot-8 senior, will draw the responsibility for Pond if he comes to the post Tuesday. Barnes is an impressive scorer in his own right, averaging 15.08 this season for the Raptors (8-5).
The Lady Cougars (6-7) have already bettered their win total from one year ago when they finished 5-24. Now Centennial looks for their first win against an 11-AAA foe since December 12, 2008 – a 40-37 victory at Independence.
Ravenwood (8-7) is coming off a strong performance in which they finished third at the Jarvis Williams Holiday Tournament in Palatka, Fla.
Following a second-place finish in the Barnstorm Classic in Panama City, Fla., the Franklin boys team face the tough task of traveling to Hillsboro for their district opener.
The Rebels (10-4) have an evenly distributed attack to this point in the season with Colson Patton leading the way with 11.4 points per game. Hunter Nelson is close behind with 10.47 and 24 3-pointers and Kyle Tackett right behind him with 10.07 points per game.
Hillsboro (13-1) is fresh off a first-place finish in the Father Ryan invitational and, along with Brentwood, is a favorite for the 11-AAA crown.
Hillsboro’s girls’ team is off to a hot start as well, jumping a 14-3 record.
The Lady Rebels (7-8) have showed a new, attacking style of play under first-year coach Kari Goodwin.
Hannah Harris is Franklin’s leading scorer at a 9.25 points per game pace with Anna Patton, Anna Follese, and Rachael Hawn roughly a point away. Follese is the squad’s 3-point threat with 23 so far this season.