While special memories are ahead for four Chattanooga-area teams in Middle Tennessee State's Murphy Center, the festivities inside the "Glass House" began with an area standout bringing home a Class AAA Miss Basketball award for the second consecutive season.
East Hamilton junior Madison Hayes was overcome with joy after receiving the honor for the most outstanding player in her classification. Her fans in the crowd showed their support with loud screams Tuesday night in Murfreesboro.
"I thought back to all the hard work I put in over the past year," Hayes said. "Being at a great school with my family and coaches pushing me so much is incredible. My teammates being here for me tonight was amazing to see. The support I feel is special."
Hayes averaged 25.2 points, 12.2 rebounds, 4.0 steals, 3.6 assists and 3.1 blocked shots while shooting 49.3 percent from the floor over 34 contests this season.
In a Region 3-AAA quarterfinal against Rhea County she had 29 points, 18 rebounds, seven steals, six blocks and four assists to spur a comeback victory. The Lady Hurricanes finished 21-13 this season.
"I'm like a proud dad," East Hamilton coach Hunter Gremore said. "She's almost like my daughter. She is such a good person, and I can't think of another person who deserves it more than she does. The effort and hard work she has put in has made this moment possible. I am blessed to have her, and think, man, I get her for one more year."
Hayes said she learned a great deal from watching Bradley Central's Rhyne Howard the last several years. Now at Kentucky, Howard won the Class AAA Miss Basketball award last season and on Tuesday was named the Southeastern Conference freshman of the year.
"Playing against Rhyne made me think about I can't be content with my game," Hayes said. "She is a great player. It made me better and work harder also in every facet of my game."
Hayes recently received an offer from Mississippi State to add to her vast list of offers ahead of her fifth season with the Lady Hurricanes. She plans to take in-home visits from college programs this month and plans to commit before her senior year.
Hayes will play in the USA Basketball Women's 3x3 U18 National Championship Invitational, which will be held April 12-14 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. She represents the states of Tennessee and Georgia.
Hayes will be challenged to raise the bar with her team even higher next season.
"I told her she has accomplished so much already," Gremore said. "Now the state tournament and a championship is the only thing eluding her. I know she will make that her goal."
"Working hard pays off," Hayes said. "We have a great class coming in next year and a lot of talent returning. I think we can make it to the state tournament for sure."
Boys' pairings set
With 42 combined trips to the boys' state tournament, Howard (25-8) and Brainerd (22-10) will meet in the 2019 Class AA event only if both reach the final.
The Hustlin' Tigers will pursue their first gold ball in program history with a quarterfinal matchup against East Nashville (26-6) next Wednesday at 11 a.m. EDT in the Murphy Center.
"I will be happy to see my kids play on this stage. They fought hard for it and deserve it," first-year Howard coach James Talley said. "We are glad to see Brainerd on the other side of the bracket, because every time we play them it's an all-out battle. Those kids play so hard for their coach."
The Panthers will take on Pearl-Cohn (20-10) on Wednesday at 3:45 EDT.
"This time last year I was curled up in tears wanting to be here," Brainerd coach Levar Brown said. "It is a blessing for us to play and compete at this level. I am extremely proud of our kids. I am also excited for Howard. It would be a great thing to meet in that final on Saturday."
Brown also took time Monday to support Brainerd Miss Basketball finalist Kimia Carter, who averaged 31.2 points and shot 54.4 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line this season. Carter and Baylor's Beyuan Hendricks (18 ppg, 54 percent FGs, 42 percent on 3s, 83 percent FTs) were runners-up for the top individual honor.
In Class AAA, Cleveland (29-4) drew three-time defending state champion Memphis East (24-8), which has the top-ranked player in the country, James Wiseman (7-foot-6 wingspan). The Blue Raiders will shoot for an upset when they tip off next Thursday at 12:30 EDT.
"All the hard work our guys put into this season got us here," Blue Raiders assistant coach Reggie Tucker said. "A championship culture has been formed here in the past by players who have come through here. Our guys are up for the challenge. Who better than us to knock off a team like this."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com.