By Anthony S. Puca
On Tuesday night, the 2010-2011 prep basketball season gets underway with a full slate of TSSAA Hall of Champion games.
TSSAA Hall of Champions Benefit Basketball games have been played since its inception in 2001 and are played in order to raise money for the TSSAA Hall of Champions, while also allowing schools to play additional basketball games without counting them towards the number of games allowed on the regular season schedule.
Hall of Champions games are played during the week preceding the regular basketball season. They run from Tuesday thru Saturday, and a team may play on any two dates during that time frame.
Approximately 155 TSSAA Member Schools host a Hall of Champions game(s), raising roughly $100,000 each year. The idea for benefit basketball games originated in 1969 when games were played in order to raise funds for the TSSAA office building.
All three Marshall County squads will take to the hardwood in Hall of Champion games for their first action of the season.
Forrest will take on Clarkrange for the third consecutive season with this year's contest up in Fentress County.
TSSAA Hall of Fame coach Lamar Rogers' eight-time state champion Lady Buffaloes will be out for a measure of revenge versus the Lady Rockets, who defeated Clarkrange 60-44 in Chapel Hill in last season's Hall of Champion opener.
2009-2010 Class A Miss Basketball Beth Hawn had an incredible performance in the Lady Rockets' first ever win over Clarkrange, scoring her 1,000 career point at Forrest and a career high 30 points versus the 2008-2009 Class A State Champion Lady Buffaloes.
Forrest, the 2005-2006 Class A state titleholders is 55-9 over the last two seasons and is 1-3 all-time versus Clarkrange.
Clarkrange did not count the loss in their overall record last year, but counted the wins over Forrest in Hall of Champion games the previous two seasons.
Davy McClaran's, defending District 9A champion Forrest Rockets will also travel to Clarkrange and are 2-1 versus the Buffaloes in Hall of Champion games and 2-2 overall.
Both Forrest squads will travel to Tullahoma on Saturday for their second Hall of Champion game.
Vanderbilt signee Kedren Johnson and the Marshall County Tigers came within two games of winning the Class AA state title last season and will play Liberty Tech Magnet and Bolivar Central in back-to-back Hall of Champion games next Friday and Saturday at Bolivar.
Bolivar beat MCHS 64-58 in overtime in the state semifinal last year before besting Liberty Tech 72-62 to win their third state title.
Bolivar also ended Jason Tigert's Tigers' season in 2009-2010 in a Class AA sectional game.
Tigert has won the District Coach of the Year Award the past three years and said about the back-to-back Hall of Champion games to begin the season, "It should be a lot of fun. A lot of people are picking Liberty Tech to win it all. They return the most and they really did not lose anything and are extremely talented. And Bolivar, they probably haven't lost a home game in five years. That place will be packed in a sea of green and the atmosphere will be as tough as you can get in the country."
Johnson was also stoked about the games, saying, "I have been thinking about those two games since I began working out since the tournament. These are like playoff games before the district ever starts."
MCHS is 52-14 over the last two years.
The Tigerettes, under first year head coach David Junkins also have two Hall of Champions' games, travelling to Nashville Overton Tuesday night before hosting Riverdale at Dottie Kelso Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday.
Junkins, who coached at East Hickman the last three years, will try to get the four-time state champion Tigerettes back to the promised land after MCHS finished 17-14 last year.
For the second year in a row, both Cornersville squads will travel to Community on Tuesday and Loretto on Saturday for their two Hall of Champion games.
CHS head coach Micah Landers' Lady Bulldogs should be a hungry bunch this season after being knocked out of the Region 6A Tournament by Perry County 56-51 last year.
Cornersville is 50-11 over the past two seasons and made their first ever state tournament appearance in 2008-2009, losing in the first round.
The Lady Dawgs have not lost a Hall of Champion game in three years, going 5-0.
The Cornersville boys, led by fourth-year head coach Adrian Wilson had a tough season last year, filled with injuries and finished 7-19 after going 14-15 in 2008-2009.
The Bulldogs have made great strides under Wilson with three region tournament appearances in his four-year tenure, ending a long drought.
Wilson's squad won both Hall of Champion contests last season.