Central Girls, Tyner Boys Top Seeds In District 6-AA Tournament

Bad Weather May Delay Start With Playin Games At Six Sites

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - by John Hunt

If Old Man Winter would just pick up his toys and move on down the highway, the District 6-AA basketball could start as planned, but that may not happen.

Regardless of what the weather does, the Central girls and the Tyner boys are the two top-seeded teams with Brainerd seeded second in both.

While Central won the district girls title with an 11-1 mark,  the Lady Panthers finished 10-2 in league play.  Hixson seeded third, followed by Red Bank, Howard, Tyner and East Ridge.

Tyner's boys have had an incredible season so far, running through its district schedule without a blemish and winning all 12 games.  Tyner is now 19-3 overall with all losses coming against ranked, out of town teams.

Brainerd's boys have a similar situation.  The Panthers went 10-2 in the league with both losses coming to Tyner while their other four setbacks have also been to ranked, out of state teams.

The East Ridge boys are seeded third, followed by Central, Red Bank, Howard and Hixson.

The original plan is for Howard's girls to play at Red Bank today at 6 while Howard's boys are set to play at Hixson on Thursday at 7:30.

Girls' quarterfinal games are set for Thursday with East Ridge going to Tyner and the Red Bank/Howard winner going to Hixson with both having a 6 p.m. start.

Boys' quarterfinals are set for Friday with Red Bank going to Central and the Hixson/Howard winner going to East Ridge.  Both are set for a 6 p.m. start.

However, bad weather could push things back a day or so, but whenever those early games are complete, the semifinals move to Howard's Henry Bowles Gymnasium on Saturday with the girls games set for 3:30 and 5 with the  boys to follow at 6:30 and 8.

The two consolation games are scheduled for 6 and 8 on Monday with the championship games at the same time on Tuesday.

Rick May has been the coach for the Central girls for eight years, but it's been longer than that -- if ever -- that Central's girls won the regular-season championship.  May has been changing the mindset of those Lady Pounders and they're beginning to buy into his philosophy.

"This is new territory for us, but our kids are excited and I think we're peaking at the right time.  If you can't get excited about basketball this time of year, you're in the wrong business," May said Tuesday afternoon following the noon meeting at the Golden Corral on Gunbarrel Road.

"I think all of us are too familiar with how to handle failure, but we're learning how to win and be successful.  That's a big, big thing for us.  We just want to compete and for us to play to the best of our ability.  That's all I'm asking.  If we do that, everything else will take care of itself.

"We've had a target on our back all season, but we have to play hard on every possession of every game.  Everybody is zero and zero now, so we have to pick it up and go.  We're already in the region, so that pressure is off, but it's the journey that's the most fun," May added.

Sandrea Sylman, who is just a junior, leads the way for the Lady Pounders with an average of more than 18 points per game.  Alexus Mitchell and Shamiyah Jones are the only seniors on the team, so Central should be good again next year.

Brainerd coach Tyrus Ward has similar feelings.  The Lady Panthers are 16-7 overall and 10-2 in the district with both losses to Central.

"We've been waiting all year for this tournament to begin, but we've fought our way into the second seed and we're ready to get going.  Having a first-round bye is great, which means we have at least three more games, no matter what," he explained.

"We just want to keep winning so we can get a higher seed in the region, but Central has been outstanding this year.  They're well coached, they put girls in the right place at the right time, they do a good job of mixing up the tempo and they are certainly deserving of the top seed.

"The key for us is defense as that's what I've been preaching.  That's what we're focusing on, playing good defense, keeping the other team out of the lane and getting a lot of rebounds.  That will be our key to success," Ward added.

Sophomore Jamee Ward, the coaches' younger sister, is the leading scorer for the Lady Panthers who averages more than 20 points per game.

Tyner coach Gerald Harris is fully aware that any team can win on any given night, no matter what the previous results have been.

The Rams have played a tough schedule for a reason and Harris is hoping his team will benefit from it.

"This is a tough district and it doesn't matter what we've done up to this point.  Whoever comes to play will prevail, but I think we're up to the challenge.  It's always tough to beat a team three times and that's what we're facing with every team we play in this tournament," the veteran leaded suggested.

"I have all the confidence in the world in my team, but we know that we have to play well if we expect to win.  We just need to do what we do best and that's play solid defense.  Those top seeds don't mean a whole lot because they're all tough at this point.  Other teams have nothing to lose.  Our goal is to not lose again," Harris concluded.

Brainerd's first-year coach LaVar Brown offers similar feelings as Harris.

"I'm optimistic about our chances, but all records go out the window at this point.  We've just got to play our best.  If we perform to the best of our ability, I like our chances, but Tyner is definitely the team to beat.

"This district is really solid from top to bottom and anything can happen.  I know that Howard has had a tough year, but they're still the Hustlin' Tigers and they have a lot of pride.  Hixson is the same way.  And East Ridge may be the most dangerous team in the tournament.  When they get hot from outside, they can beat anybody.

"But we're blessed to be in the semifinals with an automatic bid to the region.  We still want to play well and I think we will now that we're back to full strength," Brown said with confidence.

Here is the tentative schedule for the tournament.  Changes will be posted on this website as needed.

Wednesday, February 12

Howard girls at Red Bank, 6

Thursday, February 13

East Ridge girls at Tyner, 6

Red Bank/Howard girls winner at Hixson, 6

Friday, February 14

Red Bank boys at Central, 6

Hixson/Howard boys winner at East Ridge, 6

Saturday, February 15

Girls semifinals at 3:30 and 5

Boys semifinals at 6:30 and 8

Monday, February 17

Girls consolation, 6

Boys consolation, 8

Tuesday, February 18

Girls championship, 6

Boys championship, 8

(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@comcast.net)

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