Thursday, March 3, 2016

Previewing the Division 2 State Basketball tournament

From the Commercial Appeal

Here is a look at the local teams competing at this week's Division 2 state basketball tournament at Allen Arena on the campus of Lipscomb University in Nashville.

Team: Harding
Record: 20-11
Coach: Kevin Starks (12th season)
Last state championship: 2009
Semifinal opponent: Knoxville Webb at 11:30 a.m.
Probable starters: Calvin Austin III (5-8 junior); Larry Crum (6-2 senior); Bryant Lee (6-3 junior); Tim Taylor (6-1 senior); Anthony Yarbrough (6-5 senior)
What to expect: The Lions and Webb meet in an elimination game for the fourth consecutive season so the atmosphere from both sets of fans should be highly-charged. Yarbrough is the kind of player who can get on a roll and single-handedly carry a team, if needed. Austin's speed will also make a difference but the x-factor could be Crum, who made four of Harding's 11 3-pointers in Saturday's quarterfinal victory over University School of Nashville. Yarbrough also had four in that one, and if the Lions are connecting from deep, watch out.

Team: Northpoint
Record: 29-2
Coach: Barry Gray (fourth season)
Last state championship: none
Semifinal opponent: Franklin Road Academy at 1:15 p.m.
Probable starters: Ashtyn Baker (5-8 junior); Lauren Gross (5-9 sophomore); Hannah Shafer (5-10 junior); Jade Wells (5-11 sophomore); Lindsay Whiteside (5-11 junior)
What to expect: Gray says this one will be like an NBA game, with both teams getting up and down the court at any opportunity. FRA likes to shoot 3s -- Gray says they'll attempt nine or ten per quarter -- but they have enough athletes to drive to the hole as well if the defense gets stretched too far. Much will be riding on the shoulders of point guard Baker; the Miss Basketball finalist is playing in her fourth straight final four and will shoulder plenty of the scoring and most of the ball-handling duties in what should be an intense contest.

Team: Lausanne
Record: 18-10
Coach: Marvis Davis (first season)
Last state championship: 2013
Semifinal opponent: Franklin Road Academy at 2:45 p.m.
Probable starters: James Babb (6-5 junior); Michael Manning (6-8 senior); Jesse Neloms (5-9 junior); Isaiah Stokes (6-8 junior); Rayshad Williams (6-2 sophomore)
What to expect: The battle-tested Lynx are finishing strong after opening the season with some very tough games against national-level competition. The talented Stokes will need to come up big while Neloms -- who has improved by leaps and bounds this season -- will need to have a solid floor game. It will be interesting to see who draws the primary defensive assignment against Franklin Road's Mr. Basketball finalist Kenny Cooper, who will be playing on his future home floor at Lipscomb this weekend.

Team: St. Benedict
Record: 22-6
Coach: Caleb Marcum (second season)
Last state championship: none
Semifinal opponent: Chattanooga Baylor at 10 a.m.
Probable starters: Taylor Barnes (5-8 senior); Nicole Ferris (6-0 senior); Myah LeFlore (6-0 junior); Courtney Parker (5-10 senior); Nicole Ungaro (5-11 senior)
What to expect: The Eagles -- who have won 10 of their last 12 -- did well to avoid a match-up with a strong Brentwood Academy team in the semifinals. Baylor should be a kinder draw for a team playing at state for the first time in five years, but St. Benedict will still have to play a great game. University of Memphis signee Barnes will be the key against Baylor's pressure and if the Eagles' bigs can control the glass, they have a great chance to advance.

Team: CBHS
Record: 28-1
Coach: Bubba Luckett (26th season)
Last state championship: 1987
Semifinal opponent: Nashville Ensworth at 2:45 p.m.
Probable starters: William Douglas (6-3 junior); Justin Linder (6-0 senior); Jacob Lyons (6-6 junior); Ben Spence (6-6 junior); Undra Wilson (5-9 senior)
What to expect: The Brothers aren't going to beat themselves -- and certainly not two years in a row. They were in good shape against Brentwood Academy in last year's championship game before uncharacteristically unraveling down the stretch. CBHS is disciplined and smart and shares the ball extremely well. This year's Ensworth team isn't as good as previous squads and it would be a big surprise if we didn't see another CBHS-Brentwood final on Saturday.

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