By TREY WILLIAMS
David Crockett’s boys and girls both won Hardee’s Classic basketball tournament championships Saturday at Crockett.
The boys won the 32nd annual tournament for the seventh time while the girls won their first title since the event began including a girls tournament in 2019.
The Pioneers boys got 14 points from tournament MVP Gage Peterson, a 6-foot-6 junior, and 12 from senior point guard Dawson Wagner in a 46-44 defeat of West Ridge in the championship game.
Peterson, 6-foot-7 junior Seth Britton and 6-foot-6, 290-pound senior Isaiah “Z” Mirhabibi were on the floor together much of the second half in a 2-3 zone defense that gave West Ridge (5-1) fits.
“Playing the Big Three allows us to play that 2-3 zone, which is good,” said coach Cody Connell, who won his second title in three years. “It’d be hard for us to match up with them man to man. … We rotated, we communicated really well.
“They all three have good feet. They all three do something different. So, like if one switches off on to somebody else, the other one’s gonna have a mismatch. We just fed it in there and our guys just played hard. They wanted the basketball. We made a lot of big-time plays at the end.”
In a 58-47 win against Tennessee High in the semifinals, Britton made three 3-pointers while helping the Pioneers build a 35-15 halftime lead.
Britton finished with a team-high 13 points against the Vikings. Ethan Barnett and Wagner added 11 and eight, respectively.
“We switched to that 2-3 zone and I think they went about (eight) minutes without scoring a basket, which was huge in that second quarter,” Crockett coach Cody Connell said. “Seth was big. We needed him to come off the bench tonight and hit some big shots in big moments.”
Wagner, a skilled point guard, scored 13 points in a 70-21 quarterfinals win against Cloudland, as did fellow senior Isaiah Lang. The Pioneers also got 10 points from Peterson, who was thrilled to win a championship as well as tourney MVP.
“It feels great,” Peterson said. “I’m just glad to win it all and prove – we were predicted fifth (last) in the conference, and to come out here and win this – it’s just a great start to the season.”
Peterson commended Wagner for his solid tournament showing despite feeling under the weather much of the way.
“He just came out here and played his heart out,” Peterson said. “We couldn’t do it without him.”
Crockett’s girls certainly couldn’t have achieved what they did without their point guard, freshman Bella Ferguson.
Ferguson calmly made 9 of 10 free throws in the final 41 seconds, helping the host Pioneers salt away a 51-42 victory.
“I think I was a little more nervous than I let on,” Ferguson said, “but that’s just why we practice ‘em.”
Ferguson finished with 12 points and seven assists and was named the tournament MVP.
Crockett coach Thomas Gouge is almost as relaxed as Ferguson when she’s at the foul line. He said she often hits 20 or 30 in a row in practice.
“When she got on the line she hit some big ones this summer to seal some games in camp,” Gouge said. “She’s a gamer. She’s a clutch player. And she won it for us there at the end. … It’s unbelievable that she’s a freshman.”
Ferguson is a big John Stockton fan, and he’d surely appreciate her rare court vision.
“You don’t get to coach many that see the floor like she does,” Gouge said.
Crockett senior post Nora Walters scored nine of her 13 points in the first quarter after West Ridge opened the game on a 10-2 run. And Walters assisted five of the Pioneers’ other seven points in the first quarter, including when she passed to Ferguson for a 3-pointer that gave the Pioneers a 16-12 lead.
“Nora Walters got us going early,” Gouge said. “She hit some big baskets early in the first half that kind of got us back in the swing of things.”
Emily Trivette tallied 13 points and four assists. Her 3-pointer from the left wing, thanks to a kick-out from Walters, gave Crockett a 40-38 lead with 3:10 remaining.
Trivette stretched the lead to 42-38 on two free throws with 59 seconds left.
“ET hit two big threes in the second half,” Gouge said. “We need her experience. We need that senior leadership out of her. And she stepped up big-time tonight.”
Kadence Fannon finished with seven points and 10 rebounds. Walters had five rebounds and three assists.
The Pioneers (6-0) won their quarterfinal against West Greene, 75-27.
Fannon poured in 22 points for the Pioneers. Ferguson scored 14 points and tallied eight assists.
In the semifinals, Crockett defeated Cherokee, 53-27.
Trivette scored 13 points and Kaylee Tester made three 3-pointers en route to 10 points. Fannon and Walters scored eight apiece.
“It’s a huge (tournament) win for us,” said Gouge, still wet after getting showered with water bottles by his players while entering the snazzy new locker room. “I mean it’s the first Hardee’s title for us in the history for the girls. And I believe it’s probably the girls’ first title of any kind since 1989 or ’90, as far as any kind of championship title. It’s a big, big win.
“West Ridge is a great team. We battled and showed some heart.”