Trailblazers not shying away from high expectations
By Dave Ongie
After playing in the championship game of the District 1-AAA tournament last season, a lot will be expected of Daniel Boone’s basketball team this season.
That’s just fine with Boone coach Chris Brown, who is facing the lofty expectations head-on.
“You’ve got to embrace them,” Brown said. “Our goal is to try to win the conference and go from there. We’re not going to hide from it. Those are our expectations. Our guys got a taste of it last year – playing for a conference tournament championship. I think once you get a taste of it, you want to continue to do what you can to get better and hopefully put yourself in that position again.”
The excitement starts in the backcourt for Boone, which returns the dynamic duo of Chad Heglar and Eric “Doc” Rigsby. When you add Jared Lawson, a 6-foot-3 senior transfer from Volunteer, into the mix, the ‘Blazers have the look of a contender for the Big Seven Conference crown.
While Gunnar Norris doesn’t always stuff the stat sheet, Brown noted that the 6-3 senior has a habit of making crucial plays.
“He’s kind of our glue guy,” Brown said. “He does all the dirty work we need done. He’s so critical to what we do on both ends of the floor.”
As the quarterback on Boone’s football team, Noah Shelton put up big numbers while leading the ‘Blazers to the playoffs. Brown is hoping that athletic prowess will translate to the hardwood as the 6-4 senior joins the basketball team.
Derek Percell, Brennan Blair, Taylor Johnson and Evan Fitzgerald will also play big roles for Boone. Percell, a 5-9 junior, is a smart point guard with the ability to distribute the ball. Blair, a 5-9 freshman, is earning a reputation as a good defender while Fitzgerald, a 5-11 senior, is expected to play a larger role after playing well in the postseason a year ago. Brown said Johnson, a 6-2 senior, has improved a lot and has the size to make an impact inside.
Lady Trailblazers start season with an eye toward Murfreesboro
By Dave Ongie
With their college decisions made, Daniel Boone senior standouts Sydney Pearce and Macie Culbertson are ready to lead the Lady Trailblazers on one last postseason run.
Culbertson, a 5-foot-11 point guard, and Pearce, a 6-4 center, signed their scholarship papers in a joint ceremony at the school earlier this month. Culbertson signed with Belmont while Pearce chose Carson-Newman.
Boone coach Travis Mains said the two seniors are perfectly suited to lead a team looking to make it to the state tournament in Murfreesboro. Culbertson dedicated herself to working hard in the weight room over the offseason while Pearce has developed the mobility needed to become an elite defender on the interior.
“Sydney and Macie have played AAU against kids you see play on TV,” Mains said. “They’re prepared for the expectations. I’m blessed because we have good players and good parents. I’ve got lots to work with.
Emily Sizemore will also be counted upon to provide senior leadership. The 5-8 guard is a three-year starter who shoots the ball very well in addition to being a great defender. Bayleigh Carmichel, a junior, was named the MVP of the district tournament last spring and stands to be a major contributor this year along with sophomore Jaycee Jenkins.
Mains has also been impressed with Ali Kosinksi, a 5-11 junior that seemingly came out of nowhere to work her way into Boone’s primary rotation of players. Mains calls Kosinski the most improved player on the team from the end of the summer to the start of the season.
With sophomores Kayla Gibson and Jaiden Clark coming on strong, Mains believes he has nine players he can count on to play major minutes this season, which should give Boone enough depth to make the long run into the postseason.