Trying to push their way up from the middle of the pack, McGavock’s boys might be putting things together at the right time.
The Raiders got to .500 with a 58-43 win at Hillwood on Friday and hoped they built some momentum going into the home stretch. With a big district week ahead, they moved to10-10 and 3-4 in District 12-AAA.
“I hope so,” veteran McGavock coach Marlin Sims whose team is one of a handful trying to catch district leader Hunters Lane, said. “We’re all kind of in the same boat in that regard. We lost one of our starters who moved away. But our guys seem a little more focused, we’re defending the three-pointers and generally just playing hard which is what we need to do to be successful.”
The main offensive weapon is senior Ladareus Palmer who leads the Raiders at 18 points per game. He rifled in three 3-pointers in the third quarter (four in all), leading all scorers with 16 points Friday. DeAnthony Patrick added eight.
The victory, in which McGavock led from the second quarter on, avenged a December loss at home to the Toppers and spoiled their homecoming.
“I think we’re more focused,” Palmer, a 6-foot, 175-pound shooting guard, said. “Our team seems to be getting ready for each challenge as it comes, and we’re more serious.
“I feel we’re starting to play our best basketball, and it’s coming at the right time.”
The Raiders visit Cane Ridge on Tuesday and then have a home game with second-place Overton on Friday. McGavock hopes to avenge an earlier loss in that one too — not to mention gain ground on second place.
“For sure, I think Hunters Lane is the class of the district, then all the rest of us,” Sims said. “That isn’t to say they can’t be beaten. Antioch and Overton have also been playing well lately.”
Hunters Lane is 19-2 (9-0 in the district) following their win over Cane Ridge, just ahead of Overton (5-1). Antioch (5-4) along with McGavock and Hillwood (both 3-4) are all jostling for tournament seeding positioning.
The district tournament is at Antioch, followed by the region tourney at Hillwood.
• National coaching award: David Lipscomb’s Ernie Smith has been named the National Federation of High Schools baseball coach of the year for all divisions for 2011.
Smith guided the Mustangs team to the Class AA state championship and a 26-9 record last year. It was the seventh state championship won by the veteran coach, who has been the school’s baseball and girls basketball coach for the past 34 years.
He was named the 2011 district coach of the year, as well as the Tennessee baseball coaches and TSSAA baseball coach of the year.
“This great honor really surprised me and caught me totally off guard,” Smith said Sunday. “This coming off the heels of our state championship in May was truly special.
“There are so many other coaches across the country more deserving than I am. I have to give a special thanks to my wife Regina who has been there supporting me through all these years. The Lord has truly blessed us in all the work here at Lipscomb.”
Smith has compiled an 800-233 record, 26 district championships, 17 region titles and qualified for 16 state tournaments as a baseball. His previous state titles came in 1978, 1982, 1986, 1998, 2001, 2005 and, of course, last year.
He won his 800th game as basketball coach late last season.
He is a member of Halls of Fame at Lipscomb University as well as the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association.
He appeared in Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd’’ in 1982 after both his basketball and baseball teams won the state that season.
“I thank the school for allowing me to coach all these years and to coach Charlie Hale and Jesse Blair who play such an integral part in our baseball program and of course the players who do the work on the field,” Smith said. “And finally, a thanks to Bernard Childress and Gene Menees of the TSSAA for nominating me for this award.”
• Basketball notebook: After struggling early, the Nashville Christian School girls have won seven straight, the latest a 58-39 victory over East Robertson on Friday. Bailey Maddox poured in 29 points for Coach Brandon Wood’s Eagles, who upped their record to 10-12 and 7-3 in District 10-A.
— Guard Liam Nash recorded a rare triple double in USN’s 79-46 win over Aaron Academy with 27 points, 10 assists and 10 steals.
Nash and his teammates have picked up the slack after the loss of leading scorer and 2011 Mr. Basketball finalist Nilan Hodge, who has not been with the team or in school for reasons related to his family. Ten players for the Tigers (15-5) scored in the win.
— Two Goodpasture girls scored their 1,000th career points on the same night as the Cougars (14-4) won 71-48 over Greenbrier. Teddi London poured in 30 and Cariona Hassell added 20 as both reached the milestone for Joey Spann’s team.
— David Lipscomb proved its home win over Maplewood last month was no fluke with a convincing 62-45 triumph over the Panthers on their home court. The Mustangs (11-5, 6-3 district) were led by Addison Daws (18) and Tanner Johnson (13) and blew the game open when they outscored the Panthers 27-5 in the third quarter.
• Wrestling: Father Ryan and MBA stage their annual showdown 6 p.m. Saturday at MBA. It is one of the area’s top regular-season matches.
Father Ryan remains No. 3 in this week’s coaches state prep wrestling poll. Christian Brothers and Soddy Daisy are ranked Nos. 1-2, respectively, and MBA is No. 10. CBHS appears to be the biggest threat to Ryan in its quest for another DII state team title.