TALKIN' COUNTY TOURNAMENT: Fun-filled get-together always packs a punch

Jan. 18—It seems almost impossible we are bracing ourselves for yet another Cullman County Basketball Tournament.

You know ... that one-of-a-kind, hold-on-to-your-hats, can't-believe-what-we-just-witnessed annual showdown?

For me — even as I prepare to cover my 11th — it never gets old.

In fact, I've learned to appreciate these fun-filled get-togethers even more in my growing age.

Sure, I might lose some sleep. And the stress of making deadlines will no doubt cause my blood pressure to soar.

But for one rewarding, memory-making week in January, it's all worth it.

So come out, support your school, watch some basketball and soak in what should be an excellent tournament.

Just don't blink, or you could miss it faster than Cullman County franchising a Dollar General.



From an on-paper standpoint, the varsity boys bracket is somewhat clear-cut.

Good Hope swept its county competition, Holly Pond took down every squad but Good Hope, Hanceville knocked off everyone but those aforementioned teams — and so on and so forth.

The Raiders certainly have history on their side heading into Wallace State's Tom Drake Coliseum.

Not only have they cut down the nets in three of the previous four county tournaments, but the team seeded No. 1 has claimed five of the past six county championships.

Now, does any of that mean Good Hope will emerge victorious this time around? Absolutely not.

Holly Pond and Hanceville can certainly make a bit of noise. So, too, could Fairview and West Point.

Keep in mind the Raiders took home the top prize last season as the No. 4 seed.

Could something like that be in store for 2023?

Like Hulk Hogan no-selling an opponent's finisher, you can't rule it out.



This might not be the most popular section among readers of this column, so I'll keep it brief.

Good Hope's varsity girls have steamrolled their county opponents this season. No one can dispute that fact.

In six triumphs, the 24-0 Lady Raiders have allowed an otherworldly average of 24 points per contest while putting together an impressive average margin of victory of 39.2 points per contest.

Other than perhaps Holly Pond's 2016-17 varsity boys — shoutout to coach Mitch Morris! — I haven't witnessed such dominance on the basketball court during my lengthy tenure with The Times.

And, there have been a lot of good teams over that stretch.

I could sit here and try to type out various scenarios in which Good Hope doesn't win its second straight county title.

Or, I could — despite not being a huge Marvel fan — borrow an apt phrase from Thanos: "Dread it, run from it, destiny arrives all the same."

Hard to imagine making such a bold statement when another — in my opinion, of course — potential Final Four team in Cold Springs resides in the same bracket.

But make it, I did.



I've said this time and time again, but please allow me to repeat myself.

People don't come to the county tournament to watch the media, the coaches or the referees (well, some do the latter).

They certainly don't show up in droves for the concession stand medley.

This tournament is and will always be made special by the exceptional players on the floor.

And, there's no shortage of those heading into Saturday.

Cold Springs (Nic Fallin and John Mark Smith), Fairview (Kobe Payne and Cylas Yarbrough), Good Hope (Kmal Bell, Weston Hancock and Colton Lindsey), Hanceville (Will Calvert, Zach Campbell and Brayden Harris), Holly Pond (Kollin Brown and Blake Rickard), Vinemont (Jaxon Holcomb and Isaiah Jones), and West Point (Jay Lamar and Kolten Perry) each bring studs to the table on the varsity boys' side.

Good Hope's varsity girls, meanwhile, are spearheaded by the four-headed monster of Ivey Maddox, Bailey Tetro, Heather Tetro and Rudi Derrick. Ella Dickerson, Maci Brown and Ella Bruer (Cold Springs), Jayla Gorham and Darby Nichols (Fairview), Aaliyah Twitty (Hanceville), Madison Butts and Kamryn Tankersley (Holly Pond), Whitney Quick and Reagan Robinson (Vinemont), and Liberty Shadix and Laklin Shadix (West Point) can also get buckets for their respective schools.

Those *deep breath* are just a few of the names I'm excited to see play this coming week.

But we all know someone will sneak up — much like the Braves' Charles Thomas in 2004 — and deliver a great performance or two.

With all that said, let me offer up some predictions.



Varsity Boys

First Round: West Point over Fairview; Hanceville over Cold Springs; Holly Pond over Vinemont

Semifinals: Good Hope over West Point; Hanceville over Holly Pond

Championship: Good Hope over Hanceville


Varsity Girls

First Round: West Point over Vinemont; Fairview over Holly Pond; Cold Springs over Hanceville

Semifinals: Good Hope over West Point; Cold Springs over Fairview

Championship: Good Hope over Cold Springs


Junior Varsity Boys

Championship: West Point over Fairview


Junior Varsity Girls

Championship: Cold Springs over Good Hope