Cam Montgomery and Madison Hayes have something in common. They’re both MVPs.
East Hamilton’s Hurricanes placed three players on the 2018-19 All-District 5-3A basketball team announced Wednesday at the league coaches’ meeting, including MVP Montgomery, who keyed the Hurricanes’ drive to the regular-season championship.
The Hurricanes are 20-5 and went 11-1 in district play to capture the first regular-season title in the program’s 10-year history. East Hamilton defeated rival Ooltewah, 66-42, Tuesday night to complete its drive to the championship and earn the top seed for next week’s tournament at Soddy-Daisy High School.
Only Cleveland (22-4), the district’s No. 2 seed, was able to beat the Hurricanes this season, a 60-40 loss on Jan. 15. Since then, East Hamilton has won five of six games with two more – Howard and at Oak Ridge – remaining before the tournament begins.
“It makes me feel really good,” Montgomery said of his MVP award. “I thank God for the opportunity to receive this award. It’s somewhat of a confidence boost for me. My game has developed a lot from my freshman year to this year. I understand the game better, I’m stronger and have learned about all my teammates. We have a really good program.”
Hayes earned the girls’ MVP honor in voting by league coaches.
East Hamilton’s Jamaal Walker and Morrell Schramm also earned spots on the all-district squad.
Montgomery, who specializes launching high-arcing 3-point shots that rip the nets after seemingly heading toward the rim on a straight-down trajectory. Montgomery possesses a tremendous range and doesn’t hesitate to take the ball to the rim, deftly using a quick first step to leave defenders in his wake.
Montgomery is the Canes’ leading scorer at 17.5 points per game. He dishes out 2.5 assists, grabs 1.8 rebounds and gets 1.3 steals. Montgomery also shoots 36.7 percent from 3-point distance and hits 74.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Stats on Montgomery, who is being recruited by Austin Peay and Tennessee Wesleyan.
“Cam has been a leader for us all season,” Canes coach Frank Jones said. “When we started the season, he was the only player who had a lot of varsity playing time. The other players look up to him. He does a lot of scoring and he’s one of our floor generals. Plus, he communicates what we want done from the huddle to the court. He runs the offense.”
Montgomery has been a key cog in the Hurricanes’ success for three seasons and they’re a combined 72-24 over that span. He helped the Canes reach the state tournament in 2017 where they lost to eventual state champion Memphis East in 2017 and lost in the sectional to Riverdale last season.
While Jones implores his players to focus on current challenges, the coach said there are possibilities for Montgomery to extend his playing career at the college level.
Montgomery would gladly accept the opportunity.
“It has been a dream of mine a long time to play college ball,” he said.
Hayes, a junior who began her varsity career in the eighth grade, was selected the girls’ MVP and is joined on the team by three teammates – her freshman sister McKenna, Dezah Lacy and Eliziah Laboo.
The Lady Canes (17-10, 8-4) will go into the tournament as the No. 3 seed behind Bradley Central and Cleveland.
Hayes is averaging 25.2 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 3.4 blocks and 3.1 steals and is being recruited by a virtual “Who’s Who?” in women’s college basketball.
The list of offers currently stands at 24 and include Louisville, South Carolina, North Carolina State, Kentucky, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Florida, Miami, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Xavier, North Carolina, Tennessee, James Madison, Pittsburgh, Missouri, Ole Miss, Clemson and UT-Chattanooga.
Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Rutgers, Virginia, Purdue and Colorado fall into the category of “recruiting (Hayes) hard,” but have not yet made official offers.
That’s 30 total schools recruiting Hayes, a junior who recently surpassed 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career with the Lady Hurricanes.
“It feels good to win the MVP,” Hayes said. “Hard work is beginning to pay off and my teammates help me through this whole process. This year I wanted to accomplish being a good team player and I had to lead this team by building up my leadership skills. The coaches have helped me with that part.”
Hayes has put up sterling statistics this season despite drawing the full attention of opposing defenses, which routinely throw double teams, triple teams and, interesting enough, quadruple players to guard the 6-foot guard.
“It’s hard sometimes,” Hayes said, an obvious defensive target by opposing teams the minute play begins on the court. “If other players aren’t scoring, I have to make something happen. Somehow, I get through it. I have enough skill sets to handle the double- and triple-team situations.”
Said Lady Canes coach Hunter Gremore, “The most impressive thing about Madison’s numbers, and they are phenomenal, she’s doing it when opposing teams are heavily defending her, hammering her the entire game, hanging all over her. It’s incredible. She doesn’t rattle easily.”
One of the top 2020 prospects, Hayes is taking the process in stride.
“I’m getting to know more of the coaches and it’s easier to talk with them,” she said. “It was awkward at first, but it’s a big thing and sometimes it’s crazy. Coaches might text me during school or at home. I’ve checked my phone after a game a few times and saw a text from a coach just to trying to stay in touch with me.”
As a junior, according to NCAA rules, Hayes can text coaches and talk to them on the phone and speak to them when she’s on their campus during an unofficial visit. She cannot talk to coaches if they’re in Chattanooga on a recruiting trip.
For the most part, whether Hayes is dealing with physical defenses, going hard to the basket for a layup or to grab a rebound, she goes about her business of building a legacy at East Hamilton.
“Madison is very humble,” Gremore said. “She doesn’t go around bragging about being recruited or how many points she just scored. She’s having fun out there.”
Cleveland walked away with the Coach of the Year awards – Jason McCowan for boys and Tony Williams for girls. The Blue Raiders and Lady Blue Raiders had successful seasons and finished second behind East Hamilton (boys) and Bradley Central (girls).
The East Hamilton and Cleveland boys and Bradley Central and Cleveland girls received byes into the semifinals that also has an automatic berth in the Region 3-3A tournament.
Jones, in his first year, led the Hurricanes to a title and Bearettes coach Jason Reuter claimed his eighth consecutive regular-season championship with a 62-27 win over Walker Valley on Tuesday. Bradley has won 65 straight games against district opponents.
The tournament gets underway on Feb. 13 with two games. The host Soddy-Daisy girls (3-21) will play Walker Valley (8-16) at 6 p.m. The No. 7 Soddy-Daisy boys (3-21) take on No. 6 McMinn County (12-16) at 7:30 p.m.
The Nos. 3, 4 and 5 positions in the boys’ bracket remain up in the air, awaiting the outcome of a showdown between Bradley Central (15-8) and the Blue Raiders on Monday at Bradley’s Jim Smiddy Arena.
If Bradley wins that game, the Bears will get the No. 3 slot, Walker Valley will be No. 4 and Ooltewah No. 5. However, if Bradley loses to Cleveland, Walker gets the third spot, Ooltewah will be fourth and Bradley fifth.
All-District 5-3A Teams
MVP – Madison Hayes, East Hamilton
Coach of the Year – Tony Williams, Cleveland
Bradley Central – Anna Walker, Jamaryn Blair, Kaleigh Hughes
East Hamilton – McKenna Hayes, Eliziah Laboo, Dezah Lacy
Cleveland – Joy Douglass, Kara Williams, Bailey Anderson, Kaitlyn Goodman
McMinn County – Kaitlynn Hennessee, Hannah Burns
Ooltewah – Madalyn Mills
Walker Valley – Abby Davis, Walker Valley
Soddy-Daisy – Katie Hamby
MVP – Cam Montgomery, East Hamilton
Coach of the Year – Jason McCowan, Cleveland
East Hamilton – Jamaal Walker, Morrell Schramm
Cleveland – JaCobi Wood, Isaiah Johnson, Grant Hurst
Bradley Central – Tray Curry, Quante Berry
Walker Valley – Jordan Monck, Noah Dupree, Blake Campbell
McMinn County – Jacob Elkins, Tyler Peel
Ooltewah – Greyson Wood, Logan Henry
Soddy-Daisy – Logan Ricketts
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)