Starting almost from scratch in 2007, the Martin Luther King steadily has evolved into a formidable girls basketball force in District 10-AA.
Over the past six seasons, under the direction of coach Lindy Brown-King, the Royals have improved their win total each year — from three to five, 10, 11 and a school-record 17 last year.
With 15 wins so far this season, MLK stands a good chance to get even more.
“We’ve improved each year,” King said after the Royals’ 62-32 district romp over Pearl-Cohn Monday. “It all starts with the attitude of the players. They are very coachable. Also, they come from great families, people who do anything to help, from taking tickets to working the concession stand to helping with transportation.”
Two years ago, King took the Royals to the region tournament for the first time in the program’s 25-year history. She took them back last year but has called this her best unit yet, “by far.”
“We’ve got a group that really enjoys being around each other,” she said. “They started in our middle school program, and have worked their way up.”
MLK (15-5) is 10-4 in the district after a 60-47 win over East Nashville on Tuesday. It hosts Lipscomb Academy — and try to avenge an earlier defeat — on Friday.
The Royals gained stature when they went 2-1 and got to the finals of the Overton Christmas tournament. All three games were close capped by an overtime loss to Hillsboro in the finals. One of the victories was against Lipscomb in a game they trailed by seven in the final minute.
“I think that [tournament] was a great realization point for us,” King, 33, a former star at Cornersville High in Marshall County, said. “It made us see we could compete with really good teams, although we didn’t show up in the first quarter of two of those games.”
Senior guard Sydney Sims leads the Royals in scoring with 16 points per game, but is out until the start of the district tournament — possibly longer — with pulled ligaments in her ankle. Jordan Majors averages about 15.
In the win over Pearl-Cohn, guard Briana Smith took up the slack and scored 32 points, 19 on free throws. The next night Majors scored 23 in the win over East.
Smith, Majors and Molly Kafader are all sophomores.
“We have three sophomore starters and the fact that they have gelled so quickly with our other starters has been a big reason for our success,” King said. “We’ve been able to do the little things — hitting free throws, keeping our opponents off the offensive boards, and playing defense.”
The offense has come around, too. The Royals have averaged 61 points in their last four games.
MLK has virtually clinched the No. 4 spot in the district standings. That’s key, because the top four teams host quarterfinal games in the tournament, which opens Feb. 11. Its first-round opponent most likely will be Pearl-Cohn or Hume-Fogg.
• Injury bug: Besides Sims at MLK, two other District 10-AA stars had recent injuries. Christ Presbyterian Academy post Lauren Thompson sustained a head injury Saturday against Ensworth but returned Tuesday and scored 12 points in a victory over Stratford.
Lipscomb post player Hannah Hutcheson sustained a concussion during a collision in Monday’s win at Goodpasture. She was taken to a specialist Tuesday and will miss Friday’s game vs. MLK. She could return as soon as Tuesday vs. CPA.
• Ezell honors: Ezell-Harding seniors Austin Gee and Tanginique Nowlin were honored Tuesday night during the Eagles’ senior night home games with Donelson Christian Academy for scoring 1,000 points during their careers. Gee also has more than 500 assists.
• Ryan rolls: With victories in 11 of 15 bouts, host Father Ryan flattened rival Montgomery Bell Academy 53-15 last Saturday, giving the Irish a full head of steam going into the Division II state wrestling duals. Ranked third in the state coaches wrestling poll, Ryan finished 24-2 in dual meets this season.
• State wrestling duals: The state wrestling duals tournament opens Friday at the Williamson County Expo Center in Franklin.
In the Division II quarterfinals, Father Ryan will meet Brentwood Academy at 3:30 p.m., and MBA will face top-ranked Christian Brothers at 5:30. In DI, Class A/AA, M.L. King will meet Pigeon Forge at 3:30 p.m. Semis follow at 7:30.
In Class AAA openers, Independence meets Knox Halls at 3:30, and Ravenwood wrestles Beech at 5:30. Quarterfinals follow at 7:30. All finals are Saturday night.
Battle Ground Academy at Pope John Paul II
Brentwood Academy at McCallie
Overton at Antioch
East Nashville at Hume-Fogg at TPS
Ezell-Harding at Knox Webb
Father Ryan at Ensworth
Donelson Christian Academy at Mt. Juliet Christian
Glencliff at McGavock
Independence at Hillsboro
Hillwood at Hunters Lane
Lipscomb Academy at M.L. King
Harpeth Hall at Baylor (girls)
Montgomery Bell Academy at Baylor (boys)
Christ Presbyterian Academy at Maplewood
University School of Nashville at Franklin Road Academy
Whites Creek at Stratford
Pearl-Cohn at Clarksville Northeast
Nashville Christian School at White House Heritage
Zion Christian at Davidson Academy
Alcoa at Cane Ridge
Antioch at Hunters Lane
Ezell-Harding at Kings Academy
Whites Creek at Christ Presbyterian Academy