Johnny Morgan is closing in on 740 career wins, but it is the one victory that has eluded him that the veteran McMinn Central girls' basketball coach gets asked about the most. Morgan is especially reminded by others this time of year, as the girls' state tournament tips off, that his program has come close but has never won a state championship.
"I get a lot of the same questions about it or a lot of well-wishers saying they hope I finally get one," said Morgan, who has coached the Chargerettes' program for 33 years. This will be the 11th time he has taken the program to the state tournament and has finished runners up in 1997, 2004 and 2010. "I don't really dwell on it that much, but it would sure be nice to finally win one, that's for sure."
Top-ranked McMinn Central (32-1) opens the Class AA state tournament today against 10th-ranked David Lipscomb (26-6) at 11 a.m. at Middle Tennessee State University. The winner will advance to Friday's semifinals to play the winner between second-ranked Elizabethton (34-1) and Cannon County (29-7). Cannon County handed the McMinn Central its lone loss this season in a Thanksgiving tournament. Since then the Chargerettes have won 29 straight games, all but one by at least 13 points.
David Lipscomb coach Ernie Smith is also in his 33rd year as coach and has more than 800 victories and one state title in 1986. Smith is also closing in on 800 victories in baseball with a 774-224 record and six state titles.
McMinn Central's three seniors - Ashley Johnson, Cassie Torbett and Miss Basketball finalist Jenna Adams - have compiled a staggering 130-8 record the last four seasons.
Similar to this season, McMinn Central went into last year's state tournament ranked No. 1 and with 30-plus wins. The Chargerettes led Gibson County by 19 points early in the third quarter of last year's state title game before the defending champs rallied with a 24-8 run that stretched into the fourth quarter and led to a three-point win.
"That's in the past and we didn't even talk about what happened then," Morgan said. "We played well in that game and it was a game of runs. We just made our run early and they made their's late. I don't feel like we choked. It was just two really good teams, and that's how the flow of the game worked.
"We don't go into every season saying we're going to win the state. That's too big a plan. We just try to win every game we play. The way you win a championship is one possession at a time, one quarter at a time and one game at a time. We know how to prepare for big games and we've won a lot of big games. But I'd like to win one more and then prepare for another one."