Grip it, and rip it.
The famous John Daly golf quote can be applied to the approach of the basketball team at Strawberry Plains Carter. The first option for the Hornets? Shoot. Second option? Rebound and shoot again. The motto? Shoot fast.
This is what Unicoi County faces in a road Class AA sectional contest tonight with tipoff set for 7 o'clock. The winner earns a spot in the state tournament in Murfreesboro.
The Blue Devils are in the sectional for the eighth time in 10 years, but have yet to break through to the next level.
In another Class AA contest, Greeneville plays host to Christian Academy of Knoxville.
In Class AAA, Dobyns-Bennett has a difficult matchup at home against Oak Ridge.
Unicoi County enters its game with a record of 26-7 while Carter is 25-7. That's where a lot of the similarities end.
The Hornets are coached by 57-year-old Joby Boydstone, who has won 332 games in his career. He picked up “The System” during the early 1990s from Paul Westhead after Loyola Marymount's famous run of NCAA success in the late 1980s.
A self-described maverick, gunslinger and renegade, Boydstone is in his first season at Carter. His team is averaging 92.2 points per game, and has topped the century mark 12 times.
Westhead's philosophy was centered on getting up a shot in less than seven seconds — with emphasis on quantity over quality (as the basketball purists gasp!). The idea is to create such a frenetic pace, the other team would eventually falter out of exhaustion.
Like Marymount, so goes Carter.
“It's unbelievable,” said English. “I've got six films, and I really needed just one. There's no difference in any of them. I talked to every coach around, and they all say the exact same thing.”
Carter tries to exceed Westhead's advice by two seconds — every possession. The Hornets take bad shots. They hurry when ahead, and hurry when behind.
“(Fulton head coach) Jody Wright said it best,” said English. “He said they jack up threes, and they're athletic and they go get the rebounds.”
And it's not the high-socks, short-shorts rebounds daintily falling off the rim, where a good box out secures the board. These things are flying off at crazy angles and often headed outside the paint.
“They're really not a great shooting team,” said English. “But they don't pay attention to percentage. They want shot volume. They want 90 shots in a game, and I bet they shoot 40 threes.”
Also, Carter complements its shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later offensive style with a fullcourt press.
“They thrive on turning you over, and shooting layups and getting dunks,” said English.
Unicoi's counter measure may actually be a 2-3 zone, something CAK used in a 77-73 loss in the Region 2-AA final.
“(CAK) has 30-45 second possessions,” said English. “We have to try to figure a way not to feed their runs. They can hit you with a 10-0 run, and then you speed the game up because you're down.”
The good news for Unicoi County is the likely availability of good shots. Carter has actually lost three games where it scored 100 points.
“If they don't turn you over early, you can get a good look in the halfcourt,” said English. “The big thing is we've got to play with poise, especially in that environment. I think we have a shot if we take care of the ball and hang in there rebounding wise.”
Leading the way for Carter is Jordan Bowden, who averages 18 points per game. Tucker Greene chips in with 15.5 a contest.
But the Hornets have more, including Shawn Winton. He jacked up for 37 points off the bench in the 110-103 win over Gatlinburg-Pittman in the District 3-AA title game.
Unicoi County counters with a roster that includes eight seniors. At the head of the class are guards Ethan Rice, Keith Arrowood and Lucas Hensley along with posts Connor Simpson and Nic Chambers.
Christian Academy of Knoxville (21-12) at Greeneville (24-9) — It's a favorable matchup for the Greene Devils as the Warriors are a surprise entrant at this stage of the season.
Still, CAK has standout senior guard Oteriah Lee. Greeneville head coach Brad Woolsey said he remembers Lee's performance against the Greene Devils as a freshman, when Lee scored 24 points.
If the Greene Devils can keep Lee reasonably contained, and if guards Trevor Wright and Hays Culbreth continue coming up with big plays and big shots, Greeneville has a real chance.
Oak Ridge (29-7) at Dobyns-Bennett (22-8) — These teams met on Dec. 21, and the Wildcats won 73-63. But the Indians were in the middle of a five-game losing streak and didn't have Ty'leke Love.
These days, D-B has won 16 games in a row while the Wildcats have two late-season losses and barely escaped the Region 2-AAA semifinals.
It may be close to a 50-50 game, but the Indians are probably a gracefully slim favorite.