By Jonathan Deal
Tanner’s boys basketball team found itself in an unfamiliar position Tuesday afternoon at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. Every other time the Rattlers played at the BJCC, they left with a state championship trophy in tow.
Sure, Tanner lost other games this season. And, a third of those losses were to East Limestone, a team that failed to advance to the Regional Tournament.
So, the fact the Rattlers even made it to Birmingham speaks volumes to the level of talent in Limestone County this season.
Over the last four years, Tanner’s boys team won two state championships and were the top team in Limestone County most of that time.
Not this year.
While this Tanner team was less experienced than the previous three, Athens and East Limestone had two of its best teams in school history.
With a school-record 24-game winning streak, Athens was the undisputed top team over the last four months. Athens beat East Limestone three times, winning by an average of 16 points per game. The Indians beat Tanner three times, winning by an average of eight points.
Tanner, the third best team in the county was still good enough to make it to the Final 48, while Athens and East Limestone stayed home. While it doesn’t seem right, it’s an example of how good Athens and East Limestone were.
The Indians were dominant over county teams with a perfect 10-0 record on the way to winning a second county championship in four years.
As dominant as East was over all other county teams, Athens was dominant over everyone.
After starting the season 2-3, the Golden Eagles reeled off 24-straight victories on the way to the Northwest Regional championship.
And, what about Parker, the team that finally knocked them out?
Parker held No. 1 Faith Academy to seven points in the first half on their way to playing in the 5A championship game Saturday. Only Cullman, a team that East Limestone took to double-overtime in a sub-state playoff game, came within single digits of Parker over the last month.
The success of Limestone County boys basketball should come as no surprise, however. Just look at the players.
The Potts brothers at Athens formed the best 1-2 punch in the state. East Limestone’s Jordon Gandy might be the best player in school history and Tanner will most likely have at least one more all-state performer this year.
There might not have been any state champions, but this was a banner year for Limestone County basketball.