Two points separated the Cascade Champions boy’s basketball program from their first appearance in the illustrious “Glass House” and TSSAA State Tournament last season.
After a summer of practicing and training through a pandemic, the Champions suffered defeat in a sub-state game against the eventual state champions, Clay County.
With essentially no restrictions this summer, teams have been able to be more hands-on during practices.
Champions’ head coach Chris Lawson is appreciative of a normal summer schedule.
“We couldn’t do any scrimmaging or 5-on-5 practices among each other. The most we could do was 3-on-3, so it was a lot of skill development,” said Lawson on last summer.
“This summer we were able to have a normal summer. We got 10 days of competition and scrimmages. We played some really good teams.”
Of last year’s sub-state team, five of those were seniors with Seth Countess and Alex Allison playing prominent roles in the Champions’ success.
Production on the court from Countess and Allison will surely be missed, but the veteran leadership they possessed is the biggest loss.
For this upcoming season, the Champions will look to lone senior, Justis Carter, and a number of experienced juniors to fill those voids.
“He’s (Carter) a different leader than we’ve had in the past, but he gets guys going,” said Lawson.
“Jackson Davis and Lucas Clanton are the top two that are vocal, and have good experience the last two years. I can tell from that experience, and coming into the summer that their confidence level has just been great. When you’re confident, you’re not afraid to be vocal.”
The Champions are also preparing for an upgrade in the level of competition they will be playing this season.
Many schools across the state have been reclassified to either a higher or lower classification.
The Champions received a bump to AA basketball after playing in A for the last four years.
With that in mind, Lawson sought out scrimmages and summer camps against high-level teams.
Tullahoma, Bearden, Columbia Central, and Hillsboro are just a few that the Champions competed against.
“Those are all 3-A, 4-A schools that play a high level of competition,” Lawson said.
“For the summer, we were 12-3. My main question this summer was can we play at that level, and I think it’s a yes.”
With the summer coming to an end and school right around the corner, teams will be limited to the weight room and conditioning until basketball season draws closer.
Lawson emphasized that the weight room and conditioning will be a focal point in the coming months.
“Our plan starting next week is to hit the weight room hard for the next couple of months and condition week-to-week. We’ll mix that five days a week.”
Many times in sports, the phrase “be a goldfish” is preached to players.
A goldfish has a ten-second memory, so it is a metaphor for forgetting the past and mistakes.
Although coming up short in the sub-state game last season was devastating, the Champions are looking toward the future, and building on their momentum.
“You don’t want to rush time, and wish away days, but there’s no question that everyone in our program is hungry and ready to get to the point to see what we can do,” Lawson said.