What if” and “could have been” aside, Memphis still rules the state with an iron fist in Class AAA basketball.
But there is evidence of cracks in the armor.
Science Hill nearly broke through against the West Tennessee powers, but Memphis East parlayed its dramatic comeback over Science Hill into an 71-61 win over city rival Central in the Class AAA state championship game Saturday in Murfreesboro.
East also needed some late-game good fortune to beat Murfreesboro Blackman in the quarterfinals. And Central had to go to the wire to beat Clarksville in the semifinals.
A bucket here or a bounce there and Memphis wouldn’t have even reached the finals. Also, East’s nine losses were the most for a Class AAA state champion since the format was changed in 1976.
However, until somebody does something more than come close to beating Memphis, that city will still be the king.
The Memphis area has produced 12 of the 13 Class AAA state champions, and Saturday’s game was the fourth all-Memphis final in five years.
It started in 2000 when White Station won its first of five titles, also winning in 2002-04 and 2009. Bartlett, located just outside of Memphis, won in 2001. Ridgeway captured the title in 2005 and Hamilton won in 2006.
The streak was finally broken in 2007 when Maryville upset Science Hill on the road in the sectional and went on to claim the state title.
Ridgeway won again in 2008 while Melrose won in 2010 and Craigmont earned the title in 2011.
Knox Bearden is the only non-Memphis team to reach the finals since 2007.
This was the sixth title overall for the Mustangs, tying a state record. East won Class AA titles in 1979, 1982, 1983 and 1988 before winning a Class AAA crown in 1996.
Bolton and Perry County have also won six basketball titles. Bolton won a Class S title in 1975, earned four Class A titles (1978, 1979, 1981, 1985) and added a Class AA championship in 1989.
Perry County won overall titles in 1955-57 and won three Class A championships (1976-77 and 1997). Perry had a shot for seven on Saturday, but lost 38-34 to Friendship Christian in the Class A finals.
White Station, Montgomery Bell Academy and Union City each have five titles to their credit. Memphis Melrose, Memphis Ridgeway, Nashville West, East Robertson, Hume Fogg, Union City and Brentwood Academy have earned four apiece.
Science Hill is tied with 10 other teams, having won three state championships.
Science Hill was knocking on the door of history, but Nashville Christ Presbyterian Academy did more than knock.
The Hilltoppers and Lady Hilltoppers were within shouting distance of winning state championships in the same season. The boys reached the semifinals while the girls lost in the title game.
But CPA actually pulled off the feat. It became just the fourth school in TSSAA history to win both in one year when the boys beat Memphis Mitchell 78-64 in Saturday’s final. The girls beat Obion County 61-52 on March 10.
The Lions and Lady Lions joined Bradley Central (1962), Chattanooga Brainerd (1984) and Brentwood Academy (2006 in Division II) on the select list.
Science Hill swimmer Tyler Mills had a banner season, putting together record performances in the recent Tennessee State High School Swimming and Diving Championships.
Mills broke three school records at the state meet that were owned by former Hilltoppers’ standout Kyle Owens. And Owens has gone on to impressive performances at Auburn University as he will participate in the NCAA Championships this weekend in Seattle.
Mills broke Owens’ high school marks in the 1,600 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly — pointing to a bright future for the athlete.
“I think Tyler is a very talented swimmer,” said Science Hill head coach Chris Coraggio. “He really puts forth a lot of focus and effort, especially in the weight room.”
Coraggio and Mills are headed for Florida this week for the Junior Nationals. Mills will be swimming in events from Wednesday through Saturday.
Spring sports have enjoyed one of the warmest starts to their season in many years. Temperatures peaked into the 70s last week, and have soared into the 80s this week.
Rain will move back into the picture toward the end of the week, but temperatures are forecast to remain in the 70s or close to it.
History suggests a few mighty cold snaps will pound spring teams before May rolls around, but the early good weather should help fundamentals.
Look for area baseball and softball teams to be better defensively in the early stages of their seasons with more opportunities to see live infield practice.
And better defense translates into better ballgames all around.
The good weather is always welcome because postseason play arrives quickly in the spring. Once March ends, it’s only a month away from district tournament time.
And then the Spring Fling calls. Dates for this year’s five-sport state championship chase are May 21-25 in Murfreesboro.
Former Elizabethton boys and girls basketball coach Tony Hardin recently resigned at Maryville Heritage.
Hardin guided the Cyclones to the Class AA state tournament in 2003, where they lost in the quarterfinals to Memphis Ridgeway and finished with a record of 30-5.
He coached six years at Heritage.
During its recent Board of Control meeting, it was announced J. Frank White has withdrawn from the TSSAA.
The Harrogate school was in District 2-A with Hancock County, Clinch, Washburn and Cosby.
Also, the TSSAA voted to raise Spring Fling ticket prices to $10, but only have one session per day — compared to two sessions in the past.
Prep signings: It was triple the fun for Daniel Boone last week as the Trailblazers’ athletic program had three players get a chance to move to the next level.
Cory Jenkins made it official in baseball with Milligan College while Jordan Bacon landed a college basketball deal with Virginia Intermont.
Also, Kellie Waycaster added to list of softball signees for the Trailblazers by agreeing to play at UVA-Wise. ...
Unicoi County’s football program will send a player into the college ranks this week.
Receiver Josh McKinney will make it official with Maryville College on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the high school. …
In girls’ soccer, Tennessee High landed a deal for Keely Easterling. She signed last week to continue her playing career at King College.