Some post-Christmas cheer in Pennsylvania was one of the key elements that helped springboard Brentwood High’s boys basketball team to one of the greatest seasons in school history.
For a long time, veteran coach Dennis King had contemplated whether to take his team to play in the Holiday Hoops Classic at his alma mater, Gateway High (Pa.). This season, thanks in large part by funding provided by proceeds of his book, he finally arranged the trip to the school located just outside Pittsburgh, for the Dec. 27-29 event.
“They have been after me for about the last five years to bring a team up there,” King said Saturday at the state pairings meeting in Murfreesboro. “I finally said this was it, that this season, I had a really good team that could go up there and represent us well.”
The Bruins won the tournament, with a victory over — you guessed it — Gateway High, King’s alma mater, in the finals.
“We beat them by 20 [62-42], and everyone played well,” he said. “It was a great time for me. I got to see a lot of family and friends, a real homecoming of sorts. The tournament championship was just icing on the cake.”
King raised close to $5,000 for the trip through proceeds from his book Refuse to be Ordinary — 10 Championship Traits, a 158-page effort that was published last July.
“Our parents really helped out, and we had some sales at school,” King, who has been the Bentwood boys coach 25 of the past 29 years, said. “More than anything, I think the trip established a good bonding between players, something that really was helpful in developing team chemistry. This is an especially close team.”
Last Monday, Brentwood (29-4) defeated Wilson Central in the sectionals became the first boys team in the 30-year-old school’s history to reach the BlueCross Class AAA state tournament. Six times previously (including 2011 and 2012), the Bruins reached the that same stage of the postseason but fell one step short.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy for one of our teams getting to state, especially for Dennis,” BHS athletic director Ronnie Siegenthaler who, as girls coach, has taken three teams to state (1999, 2004 and this year), said. “Walking down the hallways and seeing the excitement of our students was great. It’s a special team.”
Up next for the Bruins is their Class AAA quarterfinal opener — a match-up against No. 1 Blackman (30-0) and AAA Mr. Basketball finalist Darius Thompson, 11:45 a.m. Wednesday at MTSU.
The teams met Dec. 7 in what was Brentwood’s worst loss of the season, 74-41. Blackman made 16 3-pointers in that one.
“They smashed us pretty good,” King said. “They’re a great team, and it’s certainly going to be a big challenge. But our players are ready to see how far they have come.”
The progress already was evident a couple weeks later during that trip to Pennsylvania.
• Hillsboro (26-7) faces Dyer County (29-3) in another Class AAA quarterfinal, 1:30 p.m. Wednesday — immediately following Brentwood’s contest.
The Burros must contend with 6-foot-5 Dyer shooting guard Robert Hubbs, a Tennessee signee, who has scored more than 2,000 points and is a Mr. Basketball finalist.