Tigers prepare for big stage

Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Caleb Fields has turned in a solid sophomore season, averaging 15.3 points per game for the Tigers, who will take on Fayette Ware in the first round of the Class-AA BlueCross Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's State Basketball Championships on Thursday at 1:15 p.m. Photos by Anthony S. Puca

Marshall County Tigers coach Arnett Bodenhamer and his squad have internally believed in their abilities to overcome and win against the odds, not listening to the pundits and predictors, who didn't give them much of a chance just a couple of weeks ago.

Now the Tigers are changing minds in a hurry and they should be after travelling to Maplewood last Friday night and upsetting the sixth-ranked Panthers 56-54 in a dramatic come from behind win in a Class AA state sectional contest that punched Marshall County's ticket to the 2016 BlueCross Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's State Basketball Championships.

Going for broke

"There's no satisfaction with just getting there, we want it all! That's what we have prepared for since last year after the Creek Wood loss," Bodenhamer said. "I know our record isn't the best, but at this moment everybody is 0-0. If you look at our record I feel we are battle tested and I believe that's why we are here."

The Tigers (16-14) lost to CPA in District 12-AA title game, but came up with dramatic back-to-back wins over Camden Central and Cascade in the Region 6-AA tournament before falling once again to the Lions in the region tournament title game.

The highly favored CPA squad was ousted by White's Creek at home in the sectional round, sending the region runners-up to the state tournament, while both champs emptied their lockers.

Little change

Bodenhamer doesn't plan on much change to the routine, except some time on larger courts in preparation for Thursday's opening round game versus Fayette Ware (24-8) at the Murphy Center on the campus of MTSU.

"The guys are working hard and preparing the same way we always have. The way we prepare hasn't changed much, probably more mental reps than anything (film)," Bodenhamer said. "You want to be fresh, but need to be prepared for the bigger floor. We will head to Belmont and David Lipscomb and practice for a couple of days."

Fayette-Ware's road

Fayette Ware also took the hard road to the big stage, winning the District 14-AA Tournament over Jackson South Side before losing to Westview in the Region 7-AA championship game, sending the Wildcats on the road to Craigmont in the sectional round, where they came up with a dramatic one-point win.

Fayette Ware sports two big time players in 3-point specialist and District 14-AA MVP D.J. Jackson, along with Mikkel Norment, who poured in 21 points at Craigmont.

Both Jackson and Norment were named to the All-Region first team and Cordarious Miller made honorable mention for the Wildcats, who are a perennial power in the Memphis area, but have not appeared in a state tournament title game.

"Fayette Ware is your typical West Tennessee team and historically has been one of the most feared programs in West Tennessee," Bodenhamer said.

Tiger trio

Senior Malek Sain, Marshall County's leading scorer at 18.2 points per game will be ready when the Tigers open up state tournament play.

The Tigers also have a dynamic trio, led by senior leading scorer Malek Sain, who averages 18.2 points per game, five rebounds, three steals, four assists and shoots 39 percent from 3-point range.

Sophomore point guard Caleb Fields averages 15.3 points per game, four rebounds, and seven assists, while shooting 85 percent from the free throw line.

Junior forward Deandre Brown also averages in doubles figures in the scoring column with 13.7 points per game, four rebounds, and four assists and shoots a deadly 90 percent from the free throw line.

Oh, and let's not forget Curtis Keiler, who just happened to knock down the game-winner versus Maplewood with 1.8 seconds remaining in the game.

Seven-year wait

The Tigers play the Wildcats at 1:15 p.m. Thursday, marking their first state tournament appearance since the 2009-2010 season when the lost in the semifinals.

"The state tourney is all about execution, executing on the offensive end and defensive end," exclaimed Bodenhamer. "Handling the atmosphere is also another factor and this is a big stage, but I've told the guys this is the stage we work to get to, so there's no need to get nervous and shy."

Marshall County's best finish was in the 2001-2002 season when they finished in second place after losing to Ridgeway in the Class-AA championship game.

Free throw shooting will be one of the keys to a successful state tournament run for the Tigers and junior DeAndre Brown could play a big part, leading the team with a 90 percent average from the charity stripe.

Support a must

Bodenhamer is hoping that the Lewisburg fans continue the great support that has carried the Tigers through some tough times and he wants the entire county to come out and support the Tigers in their quest for a first state title.

"On Thursday it would be great to see nothing but blue and white in the stands. Having the whole city of Lewisburg as the sixth man there would be great for the kids to see," said Bodenhamer. "Having the fan support at regional helped us win, have those fans at sub-state helped us win, and we need them to help us this Thursday at 1:15 p.m."