Thursday, February 17, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Basketball galore

I drove by the Holly Springs High School gym Thursday afternoon following work.

I saw Coach Naylond Hayes’ pickup truck out back, so I figured the Hawks were practicing. I entered the gym, and as usual, I was greeted with smiles and waves by the team.

Coach Hayes and I chatted briefly about the Region 1-3A Tournament and what lies ahead of the Hawks as they defend their state championship. The coaching veteran well knows when it comes tournament time anything can happen – anybody can beat anybody on any given night.

Plus, his Hawks will have a big target on their backs. Everyone wants to beat the best.

“How long are y’all practicing today?” I asked Coach Hayes.

“Until we get it right,” was his reply.

Coach Hayes has instilled a strong work ethic into his Hawks. Even though they’re the defending state champs, ranked number one in Class 3A and number two in the state among teams in all classifications, practice is still of uttermost importance as tournament time arrives.

Coach Hayes and the Hawks are taking nothing for granted. Plus, they have plenty of motivation – back-to-back state crowns.

They’re hoping, of course, to do well in the Region Tournament, win an opening North game next Tuesday, Feb. 22, and then host the North State Tournament later next week. They open Region Tournament play Wednesday afternoon of this week against Ripley.

I was asked Monday, “Are you tired of basketball?”

“No, can’t be, it’s just beginning,” I answered.

Even after spending four days and nights at a gym last week, there is much more to come – I hope. Marshall County teams are strong once again and will make post-season noise.

“And even though it’s work, it’s really not,” I told the person. “It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy it. It helps relieve the stress of a day in the office.”

Speaking of last week, hats off to everyone at Marshall Academy for the superb job that school did in hosting the North AA Basketball Tournament. It was first-class all the way, and congratulations to the Patriots who placed second and moved on to the State Tournament.

The gym was packed, particularly Friday and Saturday nights for the semi-finals and finals. The support of the Marshall Academy student body was wonderful. Keith Taylor, head coach of the Patriots, complimented the loud crowd after the semi-finals and finals.

Students overflowed their section each time the Patriots and Lady Patriots played and they never sat down. They were yelling and yelling – constantly. And they were decked out in red and white, many students wearing red “Keith’s Krazies” t-shirts. Those type shirts have become commonplace in college, in support of the head coaches, and are working their way down into the high schools.

It was some of the best school spirit I’ve seen in a while, and the other schools got involved, too. The “battle of the cheering student sections” Friday night between Marshall Academy and Winston Academy was probably worth the price of admission. Some Winston students, on the back of their shirts, had used magic markers to write, “Keith who?”

It was good fun.

I enjoyed the hospitality room - as usual. It was well supplied with good food.

Marshall Academy received rave reviews from visitors from other schools. They praised the cleanliness of the gymnasium, the good concession stand, the hospitality and much, much more.

The tournament also boosted businesses in the city. Some of the teams and fans stayed at local hotels and ate at local restaurants.

Hopefully, we can follow that one up with the North State at Holly High next week.

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