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Knox News | The Knoxville News-Sentinel

How McMinn County basketball's loss to its rival sparked TSSAA boys state tournament run

By Toyloy Brown III, Knoxville News Sentinel,

2023-03-15
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MURFREESBORO – Sophomore Reese Frazier remembers the turning point for this year's McMinn County boys basketball season, a season that included the team's first state tournament appearance since 2011.

McMinn County's season came to an end Tuesday, losing to Memphis Overton 74-55 in a Class 4A quarterfinal in the TSSAA BlueCross Basketball State Championships at Middle Tennessee State's Murphy Center.

That moment, though, that catapulted McMinn County's season was a 57-55 loss at McMinn Central on Dec. 16 when the Cherokees' rivals swarmed the court and celebrated the rivalry win.

“Just seeing them just absolutely flood the court right in front of our eyes that right there sparked a fire in us going into Christmas break," Frazier said. "And then coming out of Christmas break we were, I'm not gonna lie, we were (mad) at everyone we played … I feel like it just started the fire for us.”

Frazier led McMinn County (27-8) with 15 points. Seniors Cayden Hester and Hayden Smith combined for 21 points and junior Trent Peak had 11 points.

The Wolverines made 56% of its shots and were led by senior point guard Jordan Frison who finished with 27 points — making 11-of-15 shots — 10 rebounds and seven assists. Their center Jailen Hardaway had what Overton coach Shelvie Rose described as the best game of the year with 23 points and nine rebounds and made all nine of his field goals.

Overton (28-11) faces Hillsboro (28-4) at 10 a.m. Friday in a Class 4A state semifinal.

SCORES:TSSAA basketball championships boys state bracket, scores

LIVE UPDATES:TSSAA basketball championships live updates, scores: Hillsboro cruises into 4A semifinal after 26-point win

Despite the loss, this marked the first time McMinn County won the district and region championship and its sectional all in the same season. The Cherokees never lost consecutive games after starting its season 1-4.

“This team has made a historic run and I'm glad they let me go along on the ride with them,” said,” McMinn County coach Randy Casey. “I love these guys. And I told them in the locker room just now I missed them already.”

Casey said that this year’s team is his favorite of the ones he’s coached in 32 years.

“Our seniors have established McMinn County as, in my opinion, the gold standard in our district, in our region,” Casey said. “They play for each other. They play for me. They play for our community … They brought our city together and they brought our county together.”

Casey is hopeful that this year’s appearance in the state tournament will be the motivating force for later teams.

“We got here," he said. "And now these other guys got a taste of it. And they know they know what it feels like, what it smells like what it sounds like. And they want it again. That's what will drive us and fuel us in the future.”

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