By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Coaches will never admit this to their players, but every once in awhile, it pays to lose.
Just ask Fairview’s boys basketball team.
By falling to West Point 52-49 on Jan. 8, the Aggies secured the No. 3 seed for the county tournament, and in turn, the easiest path to the championship clash on Jan. 26 at Wallace State’s Tom Drake Coliseum.
As the third seed, Fairview joins Vinemont, Good Hope and Hanceville in the bottom half of the bracket. The four teams combined for a dismal 10-19 record in county play by the time the tourney pairings were set — and the Aggies are to thank for half of those wins.
The Purple and Gold will take on the winner of the play-in game — either the Eagles or the Raiders — and neither should present much of a problem, potentially advancing Fairview to the second round.
There, the Aggies would face Hanceville, which earned a bye as the second seed, for a spot in the title tilt. Unless Fairview just doesn’t show up, this game should be a gimme, too. The Bulldogs definitely aren’t slouches, especially with 1,000-point sophomore Brontae Harris or homecourt advantage, but the Purple and Gold have beaten Hanceville twice already this season — 49-36 on Dec. 13 and 52-49 on Jan. 10.
Meanwhile, the top half of the bracket is crowded with three teams — Holly Pond, Cold Springs and West Point — that could realistically hoist the county trophy by week’s end. Unlike the squads in the bottom half, this trio cleaned house in county play, combining for a 16-7 mark.
When either the Eagles or Warriors are eliminated following their opening-round matchup, there will be one less legitimate threat for the rest of the field to worry about. Cold Springs can easily contend with Chayse Elliott back from a wrist injury, and West Point knows what kind of damage can be done from the No. 5 seed. The Warriors put together a three-game run from the position just last year to take home the championship.
Predicting Fairview to cruise through its portion of the bracket was easy. Picking a team to survive the top half isn’t. Therefore, I’m not going to. I’m just going to wait and see how it shakes out like the rest of you.
Despite having byes in the first round, neither Cold Springs or Holly Pond really have any other advantages on the girls’ side of the competition.
The Eagles will likely meet up with Good Hope, while the Broncos will probably get a shot at West Point for respective berths in the title game. Neither opponent should be taken lightly.
The Raiders enter with a deceiving 13-10 record, but considering their awful 4-9 start, this squad is peaking at the perfect time.
The Warriors are in a similar situation, turning it on since the holiday break with impressive victories over Holly Pond, Fairview and Cullman.
Of course, everything I have laid out before you is conjecture. On any given day, any team can have its best or worst day and wind up heading home early or shocking the county with an upset.
You just never know when it comes to the Cullman County Basketball Tournament.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.