By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
With the holiday break coming to a close, basketball season is about to heat up, and every team in The Times’ coverage area will look to follow suit.
One off night full of ill-timed shots, miscommunication and turnovers at this late juncture in the 2012-13 campaign can be the difference between roping in a county title and advancing to the regional and state tourneys or heading home empty-handed.
There’s been more parity in the area’s boys basketball scene this season than anytime in recent memory. At this point, picking the best team in Cullman County would be a crap shoot between six different squads — Holly Pond, Fairview, West Point, Cullman, Hanceville and Cold Springs.
The Broncos would appear to be the favorite based on their 13-4 record and No. 6 ranking in Class 3A by the Alabama Sports Writers Association, but a pair of untimely losses in Albertville’s WQSB Christmas Classic has me thinking twice.
The Aggies (11-5) and Warriors (13-5) would be the next-best options, but Fairview’s collapse against Lawrence County after leading by as many as 18 points, coupled with West Point blowing its 12-point advantage versus Danville just one day prior, take both out of the running — for now.
That leaves the Eagles and Bulldogs in county competition, and both have had their fair share of struggles, but Cold Springs has a more-than reasonable excuse.
After jumping out to a flawless 9-0 start, the Eagles have only been able to add one more win in seven games since Chayse Elliott suffered a broken left wrist. The senior star is expected to return for Friday’s region contest with Sulligent, though, and the Eagles could soar again soon — as long as the boys can pick up their chemistry right where it left off at the time of Elliott’s unfortunate departure.
Hanceville has been hit-or-miss up to this point in the season. Yes, the Dawgs (10-5) have three win streaks of three games, but they also endured a four-contest stretch in the opposite direction where they mustered no more than 36 points three times.
Any team with Brontae Harris on it shouldn’t be written off, though. The sharpshooting guard is quickly approaching the 1,000-point career mark — and he’s only a sophomore.
While all the aforementioned squads claimed at least one defeat during their respective Christmas tournaments, the Bearcats (11-6) did not. They squeaked by Ravenwood (Tenn.) High in the first round of the inaugural Yule Tide Classic and then picked up the title by upsetting Dallas County (4A, No. 2) and Tanner (2A, No. 2).
Cullman’s good fortunes actually began the week prior at the Winterfest Shootout in Tennessee, rebounding from a first-round loss with two consecutive wins to start its current five-game streak.
All six teams have the potential to make deep postseason runs, but which one has the best chance of doing so?
My vote has to go for Fairview. With Blake Parker eating up the post, Andy Hendrix and Luke Bailey firing away from behind the 3-point arc, and Elijah Garrison and Peter Kessler directing traffic and contributing when necessary, it’s hard to find a more complete team.
They do need to clean up their fundamentals and fix their consistency issues, but if the Aggies can do that, look for the Purple and Gold to flash their finesse at the Tom Drake Coliseum for this year’s Northwest Regional Tournament.
But with all the talented boys team in The Times’ coverage area, don’t expect Fairview to be the only ones.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.