Blog: Thankful for great local basketball

Blog: Thankful for great local basketball

November 20th, 2012 by Gene Henley in Sports - Columns

Three weeks ago, I started beating the drum that basketball season has arrived. It started as a slow, rhythmic beat, but now I'm bangin' away like Atlanta A&T on the movie "Drumline" -- which makes me Nick Cannon. But since I'm not married to Mariah Carey, I'm here giving you the scoop: Basketball's here and I can't be more excited.

Yet before I move on, I must digress for a moment and show some love to the East Hamilton football team, which in the last game I'll cover this year gave me the game I'd been wanting to see all season long. The Hurricanes stood toe-to-toe with the top-ranked Giles County football team in Pulaski and fell short in a 22-16 final that was by far the best game I've seen all year.

Spending most of my time covering games in Bradley County, I saw a couple of good games, but not the type of breathtaking game that came down to an unfortunate fumble in the red zone in the final moments.

It's crazy that the last time I covered East Hamilton, it was dropping the final game of the 2010 season to Central, the last in a 2-8 campaign. And two seasons later, the Hurricanes found themselves a possession away from the Class 4A semifinals.

While we're on the subject, did you see where my Kentucky Wildcats football team beat up on Stanford? Wow, that was impressive! Oh ... that was Samford? My bad. Still, a win's a win now and we do get to face a team that we've dominated in recent history (meaning last year), Tennessee.

Now moving on ...

As I stated before, the official start to the basketball regular season was last night. I'm here to give you a guide of a few games this week you might want to, at the worst, peek your head in and watch:

• Tonight, McMinn Central boys at Bledsoe County: Central's Chargers have the tools to be the best team in District 5-AA this season, led by post Max Miller, who is strong and provides an inside-outside presence. They look to get off to a good start tonight on the road against a solid Bledsoe team. Jamal Worthington is a talented athlete and player, but the key to this team will be Blake McCloud. The Warriors guard is the type of player who will turn the ball over on six straight possessions, yet on the ensuing six, hit six consecutive 3s. Bledsoe has already trumped one District 5 favorite (Meigs), and I think it will get another one at home.

Gene's pick: Bledsoe County by 8

• Wednesday, Ridgeland tournament, Howard boys vs. Ridgeland, 7:30: If Vonn Bell were 6-foot-6, and if he wasn't still playing football, I'd give the Panthers a chance.

Gene's pick: Howard by 20

• The weekend: Thursday is reserved for the three F's -- food, football and family -- and one S, sweatpants, and I'd like to extend a Happy Thanksgiving to all in advance. Friday morning is all about shopping, but if you get a chance, stop by a tournament near you.

I will be bouncing around Cleveland's and Bradley's tournaments Friday. The Bradley girls' tournament, to me, is the best tournament on the docket by far. If you're a fan, you'll want to see these teams battle. The nightcap is the most intriguing, as defending Division II-AA state champion GPS faces Bradley Central. Both teams were hammered hard with graduation, yet both have Division I signees and/or prospects.

Hamilton Heights, Brainerd and East Hamilton will each get an opportunity on the court as well, and each has D1 talent on the roster as well. I'm interested to see how Brainerd looks after last season's postseason ban. They had the team to make a run last season ... will they this year?

There also are tournaments or classics at Whitwell, Ridgeland and Chattanooga Christian, so there are plenty of opportunities to take a break from the TV screen and get out of the house.

• I'm going to close with a name you'll want to keep an eye out for: East Hamilton 6-6 freshman swingman Kenny Bunton. I'm almost afraid to put his name out there because he's a freshman and it's only been one game, but when that game is a 20-point performance with a pair of dunks and 3s, I've got to take notice.

Have fun this week. Eat a lot, but not too much. Remember, there's nothing wrong with leftovers.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.