Within two days, Jim Fey returned from the upper levels of the basketball stratosphere to mundane, everyday chores.
“Just got through cutting the yard,” the East Lit boys coach said Monday. “This week, I’m taking my daughter Jordan on a field trip.”
Fey just finished a whirlwind tour with his team through the tournaments over the past month and witnessed the clock strike midnight on his Cinderella Eagles in the Class AA state tournament finals Saturday afternoon.
After an almost miraculous run through the tournaments, which included winning four games on the final play, the Eagles lost to top-ranked Liberty Tech out of Jackson 67-57 in the finale Saturday at MTSU.
The Eagles fell just short of becoming the first Nashville Metro school since 1996 to win a state title when M.L. King with Coach James (Doc) Shelton did it.
“I was just proud of how everyone stepped up, did his part,” Fey said in summation of the tournament madness. “I thought we played well. In the finals, at times, we got in too big a rush offensively sometimes and didn’t execute.
“Defensively, we held [Tech’s] Kendall Anthony, an outstanding DI player [and the tournament MVP], to just 13 points and held him scoreless in the second half.”
Much the same as in their quarterfinal win over Livingston — when they trailed by as much as 12 — and in the semifinals, when they trailed defending champ Bolivar by as much as 11, but rallied for victory, the Eagles found themselves down 28-18 at the half versus Liberty Tech.
The Eagles were outrebounded 41-32 and hit just 15 of 29 free throws.
“I can’t feel too badly about finishing second in the state and winning a school record 29 games,” Fey who just completed his 15th season, said. “We got better as the season went along. We became a team. It was a group of guys who never quit, no matter how far we got behind.”
Asked if it was his best East Lit team yet, Fey said, “for sure. The ’07 team got to the state [tournament], but this year’s team played for all the marbles.”
With Saturday’s defeat the school, which opened in 1993, just missed winning the first team championship in its relatively brief history.
Fey said he spoke with Shelton the Monday before the state tournament began.
“He’s someone who set the bar pretty high,” Fey said. “He didn’t give me any wisdom for coaching in the state tournament. He just said to coach the same way you always have, don’t make a change for the sake of change.”
Cheau Hendricks, who hit a last-second lay-up in the 63-62 win over Livingston, Sean McKissack and Chris Willingham all made the all-tournament team.
Hendricks led East Lit with 41 points in the three tournament games at MTSU, while Willingham had 39, and McKissack 30.
“[Hendricks] is probably going the junior college route,” Fey said. “He definitely opened some eyes with the way he played last week in Murfreesboro.”
East Lit loses starters Hendricks, McKissack and Aaron Booker, who are seniors. Juniors Nick Drake, Willingham and key sophomore reserve Bobby Scott all return.
• Harper hits biggest hoop: Morehead State senior forward Demonte Harper, a former Whites Creek High star, made the biggest shot of his college career when he hit a 3-pointer at the head of the circle with four seconds left to stun Louisville 62-61 last week in the NCAA Tournament in Denver.
As seniors, Harper and Jamie Graham, who later played at Vanderbilt, led Whites Creek to the Class AAA state tournament in 2007. There, the Cobras reached the semifinalss before they lost to eventual champ Maryville 65-55 and finished with a 31-4 record.
Harper averaged 15.5 points and five rebounds per game at Morehead. Two of his Morehead teammates are former local prep stars Arthur McMillan (Hillsboro) and Drew Kelly (Centennial).
• Easley named coach at Glencliff: Brandon Easley has been named head football coach at Glencliff High. He had been an assistant football and wrestling assistant at Whites Creek.
Easley, 37, replaces Scott Murray, who took the vacant head coaching position at Whites Creek after three seasons at Glencliff. Murray’s 2009 team reached the state playoffs, the first Colts post-season since 1999.
• Ladd, Muir hired at Summit High: Former Overton High star Chris Ladd (boys) and Angie Muir (girls) have been named the first head basketball coaches at the new Summit High in Williamson County, principal Charles Farmer announced.
Ladd had coached for eight seasons at Page High, and Muir had been coach briefly at Centennial and BGA. The school will compete in District 12-AA.
• Overton goes 3-1 in Florida: Overton went 3-1 on its spring break baseball trip last week in Gulf Shores, Fla.
The Bobcats then jumped into district play right away with a District 12-AAA clash with Cane Ridge Monday before hosting Cane Ridge again Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.