Boys' first-round game
BAYLOR VS. BOYD-BUCHAHAN
• Baylor starters: Matt Clendenen (Sr.), Amedeo Giussani (Sr.), Spencer King (So.), Sammy Lupas (Sr.), Gage Upshaw (So.).
• Boyd-Buchanan starters: Hall Allen (Sr.), Q.D. Cox (Sr.), Zach Jenkins (Sr.), Justus McMillan (Sr.), Austin Walker (Sr.).
• Items of interest: Baylor is coming into the Best of Preps tournament fresh off winning the Holiday Hoops Shootout at Rhea County. Clendenen totaled 70 points in the three-game competition and was selected the tournament's most valuable player. The Red Raiders also have plenty of depth this season, but Boyd-Buchanan has some notable talent coming off its bench, too. Expect seniors Jeremiah Nason (7.4 ppg) and Colby Arendale (5.1 ppg) to continue to be key contributors for the Bucs, even after Allen works all the way back into form after offseason surgery.
Boyd-Buchanan's boys enter their first-round game Thursday against Baylor in the Times Free Press Best of Preps basketball tournament a little closer to full strength than they have been all season. And they're 10-0 at that.
Senior point guard Hall Allen will be making his third start this season when the Buccaneers play the Red Raiders at Chattanooga State. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Allen was hampered by an injury to his right foot as far back as last season's playoffs. Anyone who knows the 5-foot-9 senior guard and his hard-as-nails persona would be more surprised if he didn't play through an injury.
It wasn't publicized. There were no excuses from the Bucs' camp. But one could wonder if their 2012-13 season that came up a game short of the Class A state tournament might've ended differently with a healthy Allen.
The pain in his foot lingered into the AAU season in the summer, and ultimately he had to have surgery, which took place in August. That meant he would not be available for the Bucs right away.
"That was the worst," Allen said, "especially being my senior season."
He remembers how good it felt just to begin practicing again.
"The only thing was I couldn't go too fast," Allen said. "It was only able to go about 50 percent. But I was glad I was back."
He missed the first four games, then came off the bench and played some in the next three. He said the foot didn't bother him so much as having to regain his wind.
The next step is getting his game back into shape. He was a 43-percent shooter from 3-point distance last year and an 80-percent free-throw shooter. He's only been to the line for two shots so far this season and made them both.
"Everybody knows about the scoring, but he's the one that gets us in our offensive sets," Boyd-Buchanan coach Cole Rose said. "He brings a lot of intensity, too. He's got the confidence you want in a four-year starter. He's about as good of a senior leader you could ask for. We're starting to get back to what feels like normal again, which is nice."
Allen's current average of 6.4 points per game is a little less than half of what he averaged last year, but there's plenty of season left for that to change. He also averaged five assists, 2.5 steals and 3.3 rebounds per game a year ago.
"We know he can score and we've kind of missed that, but he's also a great leader out there on the court," teammate and classmate Q.D. Cox said. "He makes sure everybody knows what to do and where to go. He locks up, too. He boards up well for a guy that's pretty small. Having Hall back makes us that much deeper, and that much better."
Division II-AA team Baylor (6-2) could be Boyd-Buchanan's toughest test to date. Rose said the Red Raiders are bigger at every position, which isn't unusual for the Bucs.
But the coach hopes competition like they'll see in a tournament such as the Best of Preps will help season his team by the postseason. And as much as Allen's foot may have hurt, the fact the Bucs had a fourth-quarter collapse and lost at home to Clarkrange in a state sectional was even more painful.
"It still hurts how that felt," Allen said. "We don't want that to happen this year."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.