District 7-A girls race figures to be a murderer’s row again

 

By KEVIN DONALDSON

 

CELINA-The District 7-A season in the girls division figures to be the usual grindstone this year, with a bevy of strong teams and returning all-state players among the reduced field of five teams. 

 

For possibly the first time ever, Red Boiling Springs will not be in the district, having moved to adjoining District 8 after the most recent TSSAA reclassification, leaving the district with only five teams. RBS is now in a district with Friendship Christian, Gordonsville, Trousdale County and Watertown. 

 

That takes one high-quality team out of the picture, but District 7-A, as always, will still be a murderer’s row, as immediate and long-term history shows.

 

Short-term history

 

• The past two state Class A champions come from 7-A, Clarkrange last year, and Jackson County the year before (beating Clarkrange).

 

• The district had nine (count ’em, 9) all-state players last year among 15 spots on the Tennessee Sports Writers Association team, and six of those players are returning this year, including Class A Miss Basketball Laken Leonard of Jackson County. 

 

• The district had four 20-win teams last season, including Clay County, and the Clarkrange Lady Buffaloes won an incredible 39 contests. 

 

• During that 39-0 season last year, the Lady Buffaloes won by an average of over 25 points a game, and were played only two “close” games all season long, by Jackson County (9 and 10-point margins). They won their three state tournament games by an average of 23.3 points. Clarkrange had four players named to the TSWA all-state team, and return two of them–Molly Heady (who signed with Tennessee Tech last week) and Kelli Reid. 

 

• Pickett County returns three players named to last year’s all-state team, and the trio led the Lady Bobcats to the state tournament last year. They lost in the first round, but wound up with a 20-15 record. Kayla Gibson, Brittany Garrett and Terrah Garner are the returning all-state players. They all averaged 15-plus points per game last year. 

 

• Jackson County, the 2008 state champ, returns all five starters off last year’s 24-8 team, including Leonard, a senior who has already started four years in high school. 

 

Long-term history

 

This doesn’t take as long to detail, but is probably even more impressive than the recent history, as glittering as that is.

 

District 7-A has teams that have won a collective 19 state titles since the early 1970’s. Lamar Rogers has guided his Clarkrange teams to eight state titles since the early 1980’s, while Jim Brown has won five titles (Four in Class AA) at Jackson County. The Lady Blue Devils have won six overall, also winning the Class “S” title in 1973. Jackson County has also played in two state title games in the four years since their return to Class A. 

 

Pickett County won four titles in a row (1977-80) and added another title in 1989. 

 

Clay County has recorded four state runnerup trophies through the years, too, and district teams have faced each other for the state title at least two times. 

• 

The moral to the story: you can have a very good girls basketball team in this district, and not be able to advance beyond the second round of the region. In fact, it’s a safe bet at least one or two teams from the district that might very well be in the top 10 or 15 in the state will play only two games beyond the district tournament this season. 

That’s the way it goes in 7-A.