It’s high school basketball tournament time all across the state.
On the girl’s side, it appears to be Wilson Central’s tournament to lose. Wilson Central enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed with an overall record of 26-2 and 13-1 in district play. Seniors Addison Byrd, Piper Elrod, Anna Altman and Nathalie Ventura, along with freshman point guard Lindsey Freeman, should lead the Lady Wildcats deep into the tournaments and are odds-on favorites to represent District-9 in the upcoming state tournament in March.
Head coach John Wild is no stranger to playing tournament basketball as he has strong starters and a deep bench. Juniors Taylor Tucker and Kathryn Bean are as good of defenders and rebounders as there are in the district.
The Lady Bears enter the District-9 tournament at Lebanon High School with a record of 14-11 and 6-8 in district play as the sixth seed. Mt. Juliet was hit hard early when senior post Tavie Bell tore her knee the second game of the season. Losing a senior from a freshman-laden team was devastating for the Lady Bears.
Three freshman starters lead by twin post Emma Palmer and Aaliyah Frazier. Another pair of freshman run the point guard with Nevaeh Majors and Ryleigh Osborne. Sophomore Tondriannha Davis starts at the shooting guard position and is a threat shooting the three-ball as well as going to the goal of the dribble.
Junior guard Julia Maki has been coming off the bench lately to give the Lady Bears a boost shooting the three. Seniors Cassidy Harris and Skye Riggan can both give opponents trouble by shooting the basketball and playing tough man-to-man defense.
For Mt. Juliet to advance to the Region-5 tournament, they’ll have to beat No. 3 Hendersonville in the opening game, which has beaten the Lady Bears twice this year 59-40 and 46-33, Wednesday at Lebanon High School at 6:30 p.m.
Lebanon’s Lady Blue Devils finished at 17-11, 7-7 in district play and are the No. 5 seed and will play host to No. 4 Beech on Thursday at 8 p.m.
The Lady Devils have a young team as well with juniors Maleigha Oldham, Christaney Brookshire and Keionna Britton. Freshman guards Aaryn Grace Lester, Allissa Mulaski and senior Zyrina Neuble will add to a team to be watched in this tournament, especially hosting both the District-9 and Region-5 tournaments.
On the boys’ side, it is truly a wide-open tournament. Lebanon enters as the No. 1 seed with a 19-7, 11-3 regular season. Eddie Jackson, Noah Mulaski, JaKeese Turner, Cameron Oliver and David Covile are the starters. The Blue Devils play host to Portland on Friday at 7 p.m.
Mt. Juliet takes the No. 2 seed at 19-8, 11-3 and will open the tournament against No. 7 Hendersonville on Friday at 4 p.m.
The Bears are led by point guard J.R. Sanders who can hit the three or score off the dribble, penetrating to the goal. Senior Trey Pruitt is a force on the low-post both offensively and defensively.
Junior center Isaac Stephens has been a beast, along with sophomore post Bryan Aiken. Guards Joey Hayes, Terrell Wilson and Tony Thompson can score from anywhere on the court.
Wilson Central enters as the No. 5 seed with an overall record of 15-12, 7-7. Getting big post Gavin Johnson back from an early season injury has made the Wildcats a tournament threat. Cole Booth, Zay Kern, brothers Kene and Kito Aruh, along with Nate Ochoa and Dawson Hamilton, will give the Wildcats a good chance to pull some upsets.
Lebanon High School will play host to both the district and region tournaments. Go out and show support for these great athletes.
George Page is sports editor for Mt. Juliet News. Follow him on Twitter @pageplaybook.