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Brackets set for state tournament

Sunday, March 8, 2009

(Photo)
Cornersville AD Spencer Mitchell and head coach Micah Landers, second from left front, turn to talk to Forrest head coach Jeremy Jean and assistant Ashley Hobbs before the brackets were drawn for the Class A State Tournament Sunday afternoon in Murfreesboro.Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca.
With a couple of spins of the lottery basket Sunday afternoon at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro, the waiting was over and the brackets were set for the 2009 Farm Bureau Insurance Division I Class A girls state basketball tournament, beginning next week at the Murphy Center on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.

The Cornersville Lady Bulldogs' number six fell out early in the process, placing them in game number two Wednesday at 11:30 am versus their namesakes from Hampton (24-11).

It will be the first meeting between the two schools.

The Lady Bulldogs (26-6) are making their first ever state tournament appearance, while Hampton will be going to the promised for the seventh time.

"I am honored to be here," said Cornersville head coach Micah Landers. "I am honored just to be in the process and I am honored for the entire Cornersville community."

Asked how he would prepare his squad for their first ever appearance, Landers said, "I have to do my homework now and get ready for Hampton, but I don't think that you change much at this time of year."

Seated at the same table with Landers and Cornersville Athletic Director Spencer Mitchell were the Hampton representatives and their head coach Leon Tolley said about the upcoming match-up, "I think both squads will be feeling similar emotions. Even though we have been here six times, we have never won a game. The bottom line here is if you don't play well, you go home."

The Forrest Lady Rockets (29-3), who will be making their fourth consecutive trip to Murfreesboro and for the third consecutive year, drew a tough first-round opponent.

Forrest, holding the number five piece of paper, will open up at 1pm Wednesday versus the number one ranked and undefeated Clarkrange Lady Buffaloes (36-0).

Forrest lost to Clarkrange 62-31 in the season opening Hall of Fame Game at Clarkrange and the Lady Rockets have not beaten recent TSSAA Hall of Fame inductee Lamar Rodgers' squad in the three previous meetings between the two schools.

"In order to win the state championship you have got to beat them sometime," said Jean. "It is just as good the first day as it would be the last day. We have nothing to lose. A lot of people counted this team out a long time ago."

In their 36 straight wins this season, Clarkrange has outscored their opponents by an average margin of 26.8 points.

Rodgers already placed seven gold balls in the Clarkrange trophy case and said, "We already know a lot about each other, so that will save some of the scurrying around to find out. Since that first game of the year, both teams have gotten better. Personnel wise, we will have to iron that out."

Rogers has been in charge of the Lady Buffaloes since 1977 and has 873 wins, second only to Jim Smiddy Charleston from Bradley Central with 1,217 victories.

Smiddy, a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, who retired from coaching in 1993 and passed away in 1995, remains the winningest basketball coach at any level in the history of the sport.

Rodgers' winning percentage over his 31 year coaching span is .824.

Clarkrange lost in the finals last season to Jackson County 31-30 on a free throw by Laken Leonard with no time left on the clock.

"This bunch has been very focused and has had great team chemistry," Rodgers said. "They have not had one off day of practice."