Apologies to the group Outkast, but I'm going to have to make a minor adjustment in the lyrics of one of my old-school favorite songs.
"Sorry, Mrs. Jackson, but ya'll are for real."
Coach Carolyn Jackson's Brainerd Lady Panthers are riding the wave of an eight-game win streak. They stand 8-2, with the losses coming to Division II-AA Brentwood Academy and Alcoa in the Mountain View Inn Thanksgiving Tournament at Bradley Central. During the current streak, they've defeated McMinn County and East Hamilton - both sectional participants a season ago.
I've got to point out the efforts of senior Tiara Boston, who averaged 21 points in wins over East Hamilton and Tyner this week. The lefty has definitely made her presence felt in her Lady Panther career, and her versatility to play either inside or out has been vital to Jackson's offense. Her efforts haven't gone unnoticed - at least not since the season began.
If you get time in the midst of all that last-minute Christmas shopping, drop by the Times Free Press Best of Preps basketball tournament at Arts & Sciences. The tournament tips off with Chattanooga Christian and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe girls playing at 10 a.m., and will feature 16 boys' and girls' teams from our coverage area in the event.
The boys' field looks particularly strong, especially in the final two matches of the night. Cleveland coach Jason McCowan will bring his 8-2 Raiders to the tournament for the first time, and who better to draw than McCallie? Players from both teams wanted this game to happen, and we were more than happy to oblige.
In the girls' field, the best game on paper would have to be the GPS-East Hamilton game, featuring the Division II-AA defending state champions, versus Derek Morris' Lady Hurricanes, who although 8-3 are in the midst of losses in two of their last three.
Speaking of GPS, Chadarryl Clay will make a defender fall. Again. Pretty soon. And Tory Kemp just might dunk a basketball. Maybe I'm exaggerating...maybe not. But watch her sky for a rebound and tell me it's absolutely impossible. And when it happens, remember I predicted it.
Tebow. Tebow. Tebow...Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.
Would anybody have thought that one of the tallest players in the tournament regardless of sex would be a girl? That's exactly the case with LFO junior Tierney Howard, who stands a legit 6-foot-5. Head coach Dewayne Watkins noted that Howard's game has improved over each of the past two seasons, and she is starting to develop and garner the interest of some Georgia junior colleges. If she continues to grow and can continue to improve, anybody and everybody should take a look. The saying is simple in college basketball - you can't teach height.
Coach Mark Dragoo is trying to keep him under wraps, but there's no way the efforts of eighth-grader Javaughn Craig, who dropped a smooth 26 points on Calvary Baptist Saturday afternoon. The Patriots are in rebuilding mode after graduating most every relevant player from last season's state-tournament team. Craig could be the future of not only CSAS, but the area, should he remain grounded.
Key to District 5-AAA? Don't bet against Rhea County on a Friday. The Golden Eagles, picked fifth and sixth in preseason polls, have defeated Ooltewah and McMinn County so far this season - both on Friday night, and stand 7-2 on the season. The last time Rhea experienced this sort of success, B.K. Crowder was on the sidelines "throwing" a game on his way to the 2004 state tournament. The district race overall is shaping up to be a tight one. Cleveland has taken the lead, as the only team without a blemish, but Ooltewah and Rhea have one loss, and McMinn and Bradley are in a pool with two losses. Any of the five have a realistic chance of winning the district.
District 6-AA, as usual, remains a beast of a district. While Howard coach Walter McGary is still searching for the "right" combination, Tyner has reeled off eight wins to start the season and stand 8-0 overall. Brainerd is right in the mix of things (sound familiar?), while East Ridge, East Hamilton and Central are all in the midst of the race as well.
Probably the most even district would have to be 7-AA, or "the Valley." Sequatchie County and Notre Dame seem to maybe have a small leg up on the competition, but keep an eye out for Jamal Worthington and Bledsoe County. Eventually, with the players on the roster, they're going to break through with a wn. Don't say I didn't tell you so. Chattanooga Christian and Signal Mountain have standout players (Brandon Arnold and Jon Patton, respectively) that can light a team up for 25 any given night, and while Grundy County is off to a slow start, any team that travels to Coalmont and gets a win is ecstatic, regardless of the Yellow Jackets' record.
Lookout Valley and Van Buren are the tops so far in Class A, although Grace Academy's Corey Nelson is a stud that drops buckets every night.
On the girls' side, Arts & Sciences, Sale Creek and Whitwell will be battling for supremacy in Class A, although Grace has started strong and still has Katelyn Eldridge. Expect Bradley's girls to be a force in the state this season, especially considering they've defeated their three district opponents so far by an average of over 30 points so far.
Baylor's girls are getting back to full strength, and Megan Ausdran is really coming into her own this season in Division II-AA.