Phase one is the beginning of the season to the end of the calendar year, where there is an internal battle for playing time and the coaches try to find just the right court combinations and strategies that best fit their squads.
Phase two is the period from New Year's Day until the beginning of the District Tournaments the second week of February. This period is the meat of the schedule, where teams play the majority of their district schedules and fight for a spot in the standings that rewards them with a home court advantage.
The first phase will end this weekend as they all will participate in holiday tournaments around the mid-state. Both Cornersville and Forrest will once again participate and face off with each other in the Eagleville Christmas Classic, while Marshall County travels to Smyrna High School to play in the tough Bulldog Classic.
The strongest of the three county programs entering phase two is Marshall County High School. The Tigerettes, 12-1 and 5-0 in district play earned a number six ranking in the first AP Poll released on Monday. Coach David Steely and his Tigerettes are fully intent to take just one more step than last year when they finished as Class AA state runners-up.
The Tigerettes' lone loss of the season came against a very physical Obion County squad at the Columbia Thanksgiving Classis. This weekend they will face off against Goodpasture in the first round of the Smyrna tournament with a potential second round battle versus top ranked Smyrna tonight.
Jason Tigert and the Tigers have to be the biggest surprise of the season as they have rolled along with an 11-1 overall record and are undefeated in District 10-AA play entering the Smyrna Tournament. Their 91-73 win over arch rival Giles County on Dec. 7 and current nine-game winning streak has propelled them to a number nine ranking in the AP Poll.
The toughest part of MCHS' schedule is a pair of back-to-back meetings with Giles County and Lewis County on Jan. 18 and 21. The results of those two games will more than likely decide the regular season district championship and home court advantage in the tournament that begins February 11.
The Forrest Lady Rockets have lost three games this year to opponents that have a combined record of 32-6 and remain as one of the top five or six teams in all of Class A, with the cream of the crop being Jackson County (14-0), the team Forrest defeated for the state title in 2006.
The deep and talented Lady Rockets passed a big test last weekend in Wayne County when they took out Collinwood in double overtime and then barely lost to the host Lady Cats. Tonight they will face off in a tough inter-county match-up with Cornersville. Their next big district test comes on January 8 versus Middle Tennessee Christian School in Murfreesboro.
The Lady Rockets should roll right into Unionville on February 11 for the district tournament as the number one seed.
Probably the toughest coaching job of the year has to belong to Davy McClaran, who lost all of his starters but one to graduation. After winning on opening night versus Clarkrange, the Rockets went into a nine-game tailspin that saw them lose one close game after another. The 4-9 Rockets are beginning to come around as they have won three out of their last four with a huge district victory over Cascade and a sweep of Collinwood and Wayne County last weekend.
The Rockets have a tough road to hoe. They are 1-2 in their district, but they will have control of their own destiny as 10 out of their last 11 games are versus district foes, with five on the road and five in Chapel Hill. The Rockets should be able to garner a third-place spot in the district, behind Van Buren and Eagleville.
The Cornersville Lady Bulldogs are 6-4 and have lost three games to foes opposite their district as Collinwood has beat them twice and Summertown on opening night. Other than those three games versus teams they will have to beat to advance past the region tournament, the Lady Dawgs are in the midst of another great season.
One loss at Santa Fe is their lone district blemish and after their holiday games versus Forrest and Tullahoma, the Lady Bulldogs will have a chance to make a mark as they play 11-1 Richland on January 4 and Moore County on January 11, both at home. Look for the Lady Bulldogs to climb up to the number two or three spot by mid January.
The team that has confounded many is the Cornersville Bulldogs, who struggled out of the gate, compiling a 5-9 record coming into yesterday's game versus Tullahoma. Cornersville is in great shape in District 11A. They remain undefeated, along with Moore County. The Bulldogs and the Raiders will most likely be playing for first place on Jan. 11 when they face off in Cornersville.
Coach Adrian Wilson and the Bulldogs have won four out of their last five ballgames and are beginning to roll, just at the perfect time. Look for the experienced Dawgs to fight for the number one spot in the district as the season winds down.