COLLINWOOD, Tenn. — Wesley Huddleston doesn’t see any reason why the Collinwood girls basketball team can’t win three more games and bring home a state Class A championship.
He points to several “signs” that indicate the stars might be aligning in favor of the Trojans.
“It’s the 25th anniversary of the last state championship,” Collinwood’s second-year coach said Monday. “It might be (principal) Mr. (Herb) Luker’s last year, and his grand daughter is our starting post player. We’ve got 13 kids on the team, and it’s 2013 and our school is just off (highway) 13 south.”
Regardless of those signs, Collinwood has a state championship-worthy lineup heading to Murfreesboro for Wednesday’s tourney opener against Madison Academic Magnet, a Jackson-based school.
The Trojans qualified for the state tournament Saturday, topping Moore County 41-28 in a sub-state game in which Alexis Haddock scored 21 points. With the win, Collinwood improved its record to 24-7.
Another reason for Huddleston’s optimism is that Collinwood is battle-tested. The Trojans played a brutal district schedule, which he is confident has prepared them for the state tournament grind.
“There are so many good teams from top to bottom in our league,” Huddleston said. “Summertown is in the state tournament, too, and they won the regular season and the district tournament. They won the region tournament. Wayne County came on strong at the end, and they have a great tradition. They beat us one time, and we beat them twice.
“Loretto has been to the past two state tournaments and won 19 games this season. We split with them, and Frank Hughes beat Wayne County and Loretto this year. If you come out of District 12-A, you are battle tested.”
Collinwood faces a Madison team that is 25-10, including 14-2 since Jan. 18. The Mustangs have three difference-makers in their lineup, said Huddleston.
Cayla Sheets is a 5-foot-5 point guard who is dangerous on the perimeter, and the Mustangs have a strong inside game with Taylor Davis (6-2) and Dakota Smith (6-3).
“Between Smith and Davis, they average about 22 rebounds,” said Huddleston, who counters with 6-2 Hannah Littrell and 5-10 Laken Arnett. “They’ll be bigger than us, but we’ve faced some big teams this year. Anybody who makes it to the final eight has a pretty good team. Most of the weaker teams have gone home. We’ve practiced like a dog to get there. We’ll throw the ball up and see what happens.”
Collinwood (24-7) vs. Madison Magnet (25-10), 4 p.m.
Jackson County (30-3) vs. Hampton (27-9)
Cloudland (24-11) vs. Union City (30-3), 10 a.m.
Summertown (29-3) vs. Clarkrange (26-8), 11:30 a.m.
Friday, 1 p.m.; 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, 4 p.m.