Five locals named finalists for top basketball honor

Five locals named finalists for top basketball honor

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Five locals named finalists for top basketball honor

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MURFREESBORO

Blackman senior Darius Thompson and MTCS junior Derrick Spears made school history Wednesday.

Riverdale teammates Olivia Jones and Alexa Middleton along with Cannon County guard Abbey Sissom added to their respective programs’ rich tradition.

Thompson and Spears were named Mr. Basketball finalists in their respective classifications by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. Jones, Middleton and Sissom were all named Miss Basketball finalists.

It is the most finalists named for the basketball awards from Rutherford County and Cannon County ever.

High school head coaches and members of the media nominated the finalists. A committee of statewide sports writers selected the finalists and winners based on the 2012-13 regular season.

The Division I Class A, Class AA and Class AAA girls winners will be announced March 9 at Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center. The Division I Class A, Class AA and Class AAA boys winners will be announced on March 16 at Murphy Center.

Thompson, who is a finalist for the Class AAA award, and Spears, who is a Class A finalist, are firsts for their respective programs. And no male or female has been named a finalist for the basketball award at Blackman prior to Thompson.

Marie Harper was a finalist for the Miss Basketball award at Middle Tennessee Christian when the school competed in Division II.

Spears, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, found out Wednesday morning when MTCS coach Jason Piercey called Spears out of his second period pre-Calculus class where he was taking a test.

“I was hoping I wasn’t in trouble,” Spears said. “I was truly thankful when he told me.”

Spears averaged a Rutherford County best 23.6 points and 12.4 rebounds for the Cougars during the regular season. He and his Cougars play Eagleville at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Motlow State in Tullahoma in the District 9-A championship game.

Other finalists for the award include Alex Fountain of Wartburg Central and Zarmarlus Griffin of Booker T. Washington.

Thompson, a 6-4 point guard and Vanderbilt commitment, averaged 15.3 points and an area-best 6.2 assists for the Blaze (24-0), which recently completed its first undefeated regular season.

Thompson is a finalist alongside Tennessee signee Robert Hubbs of Dyer County and Memphis signee Nick King of Memphis East.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Thompson said of being named a finalist for the award. “I just thank everybody. I really never thought there would ever be one from here. It’s a great feeling to know I’m the first.”

Like the other area finalists, Thompson said his focus is helping his team advance in the postseason.

“Being a Mr. Basketball finalist is huge, but that’s not my main goal,” he said. “I’m a team player. My main goal and our team’s goal is to come back with the gold ball and win state.”

On the girls side, Jones and Middleton are the first Riverdale duo to be named Miss Basketball finalists the same year. The two follow two-time Miss Basketball winner and Riverdale graduate Shacobia Barbee, who is now a freshman guard at Georgia.

“It says a lot about our team,” Middleton said. “I think there were at least four on our team that were mentioned for the award. That says a lot about our team that we all make each other better and push each other every day.”

Added Jones, “To be a finalist is a dream come true. To have one of my teammates with me shows that we have a lot of talent on our team and it’s just not one person.”

Jones, a 5-10 forward and MTSU signee, averaged 14.3 points in the regular season with a District 7-AAA best 9.0 rebounds a game. Middleton, a 5-9 guard, averaged a 7-AAA best 15.9 points in the regular season. She also averaged 3.7 assists. She has several college offers, including Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida, LSU, Kentucky, Rutgers, N.C. State and several others.

Memphis Central senior Nina Davis, a Baylor signee, is also a finalist for the Class AAA award.

Riverdale (26-0) was ranked No. 1 in the final AP poll. The Lady Warriors are also ranked nationally by USA Today (5th), ESPN (2nd) and MaxPreps (2nd). It marks the first time two Riverdale girls were named finalists in the same year.

“I think (our schedule) had a lot to do with it. We’ve played some of the best teams all over, not just the state,” Jones said.

Sissom is a two-time Miss Basketball finalist. She is joined by McMinn Central’s Elizabeth Masengil and Obion County’s Brandi Goodman, a Memphis signee, as finalists. Masengil won the award last season.

Sissom averaged an area best 21.0 points a game in the regular season. She also averaged 4.5 assists a game. She has multiple college offers, including MTSU.

Sissom said she was called out of class to the principal’s office where she was told.

“It was the exact same thing as a year ago,” Sissom said. “I kind of guessed that was what it was about when I was called out of class. But I didn’t know exactly what it was for.”

Murfreesboro resident Corn Elder and La Vergne resident Kennesha Nichols also were named finalists. Elder, an Ensworth guard, is a finalist for the Division II-AA Mr. Basketball Award. Nichols, an Ensworth forward, is a finalist for the Division II-AA Miss Basketball Award.

Elder signed with Miami (Fla.) on Wednesday to play football, but also plans to play basketball.

MTSU basketball signee Reggie Upshaw, a Baylor senior, was also named a finalist for the Division II-AA award. The Division II awards will be presented March 2 at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena.

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