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Saturday Morning Quarterback
Feb 08, 2007 12:00 am
More than two decades ago, a team turned back all challengers. Now, that same team is back gunning for a championship.
But I'm not talking about the Chicago Bears.
Carroll-Oakland's girls' basketball team will wrap up what is believed to be its best season since a young coach named Bud Brandon led the Lady Eagles to an undefeated season 22 years ago.
Mark Thompson's team will play for the James C. Haile Tournament championship, one of several middle school "state" championships, at 10 a.m. this morning at Middle Tennessee Christian in Murfreesboro.
The Haile tournament existed in 1985, but for whatever reason, Brandon's Lady Eagles didn't participate. He said they did play in a tournament at Friendship Christian against teams from this area.
Fresh out of college, the older son of Lebanon High's legendary girls' coach Campbell Brandon coached his first team to a perfect season. He doesn't remember how many wins that was, though he guesses it was around 15.
"I got spoiled young," Brandon said earlier this week.
Teams play more games nowadays. This morning's championship game, Carroll-Oakland's first in the Haile final, will be the Lady Eagles' 24th of the season, of which they've won 21 thus far. They will face Rickman at 10 a.m.
While Carroll-Oakland is dribbling in rarefied air, Southside's boys are familiar with the Haile tourney. Coach Mike Presley's Saints will follow Carroll-Oakland with an 11:30 a.m. championship game. They have yet to taste defeat this year through 24 contests.
Back to the '85 Lady Eagles, it was quite a beginning to the younger Brandon's career, which has taken him to the pinnacle of Tennessee high school coaching as his Wilson Central girls are the defending state champions. At that time, he was trying to win and develop players for his dad's Devilette teams. Two of his guards, Heather Gill [the starting point guard as a sixth-grader] and Tabatha Reynolds, eventually started for Lebanon. The post, Tina Cantrell, also contributed to Campbell Brandon's LHS teams in the late '80s.
"The main thing I can remember is they became very determined," said Brandon, noting he and his team faced adversity despite the perfection. "Early in the season, I had a couple of starters ... I maybe worked them a little too much and they quit."
Brandon said those players later asked back on the team. But he said he learned from those experiences.
"I've changed a whole lot since then," he said. "When you're a young coach, you use energy that's not warranted. When you get older, you fight the battles that are important and conserve your energy.
"That was a very special time for me, too. I was learning along with the girls. We made some special memories that one year at Carroll-Oakland."
Thompson's Lady Eagles have made a lot of memories this season. No doubt it's been especially memorable for the Porter family – William Porter is Thompson's assistant and his daughter, Paige, is a starting guard.
As an aside, Thompson and Porter, who is now the City of Lebanon's parks and recreation director, were teammates at Lebanon in the early '80s, shortly after Brandon turned in his Blue Devil uniform to Coach Hester Gibbs and graduated.
More memories will be made today for both Carroll-Oakland and Southside. Hopefully, they'll be good ones.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at email@example.com.