By Ken Lay
A perfect Knox County Middle School Basketball Conference run was culminated with a James A. Ivey Jr. Memorial Middle School Tournament Championship for the West Valley Middle School girls basketball team.
The Lady Wolves put the finishing touches on a perfect league run when they defeated Cedar Bluff 29-21 in a battle of the league’s top two teams at Karns Middle School’s Thomas L. Duff Memorial Gymnasium.
West Valley (24-3 overall) took two of three meetings from the Lady Giants this season. Cedar Bluff beat the Lady Wolves in a tournament in November. West Valley prevailed in the conference tilt between the two West Knoxville rivals before winning the championship last week.
The Lady Wolves defense stole the show early and held Cedar Bluff to just four points in the first half. West Valley opened a 14-4 halftime lead before the Lady Giants (22-4) battled back to make things a little closer.
“They beat us early in the season and they’ve got a good team and they have one of the best coaches around if he’s not the best,” West Valley coach Alex Comer said. “This team went undefeated in the league and won the tournament and those two things make them special.”
West Valley is and has been a fixture on the tournament’s final day for years and Comer said that’s no coincidence.
“I’ve had good kids who work hard and have good parents,” Comer said. “They work hard on the basketball court and they have good grades. It’s easy to be a good coach at West Valley.
“We have a great school, a great administration and a great community. Those players are a positive reflection of our community. They come in and practice in the mornings and they work hard on their conditioning.”
The Lady Wolves also play team basketball. West Valley rebounds, plays stifling defense and shares the basketball.
This is evident in the fact that no West Valley player scored in double figures in the title game against Cedar Bluff.
Trinity Lee scored eight points and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Jalaya Manning added seven points. Tatiana Spikes finished with six for the Lady Wolves, who had all five starters (including Annaka Hall and Kendall Clark) named to the all-tournament team.
“We have three things on the blackboard in our locker room and that’s rebound, defend and share the basketball,” Comer said. “Those things are on our board and they’re not going anywhere. I felt like if we did those things, we would be successful. If we didn’t, we were going to struggle.”
Lee said the season was special for the Lady Wolves.
“This feels great,” she said. “This is a great accomplishment.
“We executed. We rebounded and we held their two best players, Abbey Cornelius and Lizzie Davis in check.”
Davis scored eight points after a scoreless first half and Cornelius scored just three points in the contest.
West Valley’s defense was solid and gave the Lady Giants fits. Cedar Bluff coach Josh Ballard said he was proud of his squad’s effort despite the loss.
“West Valley came out and they played great defense and made things hard for us,” Ballard said. “They’re a great team.
“I respect my girls for the effort they gave. I’m proud of my girls because the never stopped fighting.”
Cornelius, Davis and Claire Wyatt were named to the all-tournament team.
Powell routs Vine to take third place: Powell High School trounced Vine 51-32 to claim third place in the tournament.
The Lady Panthers jumped to a 16-5 lead and never trailed.
Powell lost to Cedar Bluff in the semifinals and first-year coach Paige Ewing said her team entered the third-place game with a chip on its shoulder.
“We were a little mad about the Cedar Bluff game,” she said. “We went 17-4 and that’s not too shabby. I’m happy as a clam.”
After Powell jumped to the 16-5 lead, the Lady Golden Bears opened the second quarter with a 10-0 run before Ewing called a timeout.
“They needed a little talking to,” Ewing said of her team.
She pushed the right button because the Lady Panthers closed the frame by scoring nine consecutive points.
Haley Schubert scored 12 points for Powell. Brooke Huffaker and Haley Crowe added 11 each and Kennedy Cowden finished with nine.
Lorianna Bullard scored a game-high 14 points for Vine.