By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
In Mitch Morris’ eight previous seasons as the head coach of Holly Pond’s varsity boys basketball team, the Broncos have never entered the Cullman County Tournament as the top seed. They’ve been No. 2 a couple times and just about every other seed in between — but never No. 1.
Till Wednesday that is, when No. 6 Holly Pond was officially awarded the first seed in the boys bracket at the Cullman County varsity and junior varsity tournament drawing session attended by nearly all of the county’s boys and girls basketball coaches.
With a 7-1 record in county play, the Broncos earned the No. 1 spot and one of two first-round byes for the tourney, which will be held Jan. 19-26 at Wallace State’s Tom Drake Coliseum. Second-seeded Hanceville received the other bye at 4-1.
“Being seeded No. 1, that’s just a reflection on our guys playing hard,” Morris said. “You play to win this tournament for pride. It has no bearing on your area or if you’re going to go to state or not.”
Fairview (5-2), Cold Springs (5-3) and West Point (4-3) grabbed the third, fourth and fifth seeds, while Vinemont (1-6) and Good Hope (0-10) rounded out Nos. 6 and 7.
Though Holly Pond is the early favorite, this year’s boys bracket is more competitive than Morris can ever remember.
“From Fairview to West Point to Vinemont to Cold Springs to Hanceville, it’s always competitive,” the coach said. “From top to bottom, on any given night, you can get beat by anyone. You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every time you play a county game.”
Cold Springs will play West Point in the first round, while Fairview will play the winner of the play-in game between Vinemont and Good Hope.
The Warriors come in as the defending champs after securing the title from the fifth seed with a magical three-game run in 2012.
Cold Springs earned top honors and a bye in the girls bracket with a nearly flawless 7-1 mark in the county thus far this season. At 6-2, No. 2 Holly Pond also grabbed a free pass for the first round.
“I’m really proud of my girls on both squads (varsity and JV) for being the No. 1 seed,” Eagle coach Tammy West said. “Hopefully we’ll try to get ready in the next two weeks and be able to play well like we did in the games that caused us to be the No. 1 seed.”
The third through fifth seeds went to West Point (5-2), Vinemont (3-4) and Good Hope (4-6). Fairview (1-6) and Hanceville (0-5) are sixth and seventh.
Cold Springs and the Broncos have been ranked for much of the year, but the Raiders and Warriors have started to come on strong as the season has progressed.
“They’re all playing well,” West said. “There are several teams that can come in and win the tournament this year.
“It really just depends who plays well those two nights. You can’t have an off night at the county tournament.”
Vinemont and Good Hope will play in the first round, as will West Point and the winner of the play-in game featuring Fairview and Hanceville.
West Point earned the No. 1 seed in the ninth-grade boys bracket, Vinemont pulled off the feat for the JV boys and Cold Springs claimed the top spot for the JV girls.
JV boys and girls will kick off the tourney with six games on Jan. 19, while the varsity boys and girls’ play-in games will be Jan. 21.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.