Archived Story

Tigers build confidence with tournament championship

Published 1:01pm Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hartselle basketball coach Keith Wright believes his team may be turning the corner in the new year after his team closed out 2013 by winning the Seymour Christmas Classic in the Smoky Mountains Monday night.

The three wins in the tournament included a 78-64 semifinal win over Carter (Tenn.) High School, a team that was ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring average at 101.1 points per game.

To prepare for the daunting task, the Hartselle basketball team had basketball school using tape and red Solo cups in its cabin the night before.

“We watched them score 112 in the first game, so we knew we that we had to slow them down,” Wright said. “We called the team downstairs in our cabin. That night, coach Alexander used tape to draw out a basketball floor on the table downstairs. We used red Solo cups to show where the players were on the floor and what we wanted them to do. It was just like basketball school for one hour.”

The preparation paid off, as the Tigers took away Carter’s transition game and frustrated the players while holding the team to its lowest output of the season.

In addition to that great defense, five Tigers scored in double figures. Jaylan Jackson led the way with 16 points and 12 assists followed by Casen Wallace and Tobias Mitchell with 14 each, Dolan Golden with 12 and Brady Wallace with 11.

That came a night after Hartselle rallied to beat Graiger (Tenn.) 49-48. Zeth Malcolm, a 10th grader who was moved up from JV for the trip, ignited a fourth-quarter rally by hitting a trio of 3-pointers to cut the erase a nine-point deficit and gave Hartselle the lead.

“That was probably the turning point of the tournament for us,” Wright said. “When our 10th grader came in and made those shots, it really gave us the spark we needed. Our older guys responded and matched his intensity.”

Malcolm led the way with 14 points followed by Jaylan Jackson with eight points. Phillip Summerford pulled down seven rebounds in the win.

Hartselle then clinched the title with a 58-46 win over Pigeon Forge. Jackson earned MVP honors with another 12 points. Casen Wallace matched that total with 12 followed by Brady Wallace with nine and Mitchell with eight points and nine rebounds.

“That was some of the best basketball that we’ve played in years,” Wright said. “It was the first time this season that we had all 10 of our basketball players healthy at one time. It was a great experience for our team and one that they’ll never forget.”

The Tigers (5-7, 1-3) are hoping that the momentum continues as they head back into area play Friday night against East Limestone.

“I think we finally have some confidence in what we’re trying to do right now,” Wright said. “We lost several close games that I thought we should have won before the tournament, but we finally had everyone healthy and we gained a lot of confidence by winning the tournament. We hope that the confidence carries over into the second half of our season.”

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