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Raider duo sets college plans

By Maurice Patton

A pair of Spring Hill football seniors recently declared their collegiate destinations, as receiver Jaylan Rucker signed a scholarship Wednesday with Culver Stockton College after kicker Brett Hughes signed earlier with Lindsey Wilson College.

Rucker, a 6-6, 200-pound receiver, finished the Raiders’ 2020 season with 13 catches for 116 yards and one score – a 30-yarder in Spring Hill’s playoff loss at DeKalb County.

“I really felt more connected with them,” Rucker said regarding the staff at Culver Stockton, an NAIA school in Canton, Mo. “They like me on the outside, running good routes and using my speed.”

Spring Hill’s Jaylan Rucker (second from left) signed a college football scholarship Wednesday with Culver Stockton College. Pictured with Rucker are (left) sister Ciara Rucker, mother Nicole Declouet and brother Jayden Rucker. (Photo by Maurice Patton / SM-Tn Sports)

In signing with Culver Stockton, Rucker turned down scholarship offers from Defiance (Ohio) and McPherson (Kansas) colleges.

“He went for a visit at Carson-Newman. They invited him up, think he ran some routes,” Spring Hill coach Ben Martin said. “I think that’s what set the ball in motion.

“He’s always been a great kid. His aggressiveness came on, he got a little more confident, decided he could actually catch the ball and do something with it when he caught it.”

With his size and strength, particularly at the NAIA level, Martin expects Rucker to give the CSC coaching staff some options.

“He’s a strong kid – benching 285 (pounds), squatting 400, … You can’t coach 6-6,” Martin said. “He really showed some strides. I think what really helped him is, he was one of our better blockers on our team. He doesn’t mind getting physical. They think they can add about 40 pounds. If he’s able to hold weight and put his hand in the dirt, he could possibly be a tight end because he can block pretty well. He’s also a 4.65 (-second) 40 (-yard) guy, so he presents a lot of problems in the slot and he can run those routes. You get him matched up against a 5-10 cornerback, you kinda like that.”

Brett Hughes (center) recently signed a football scholarship with Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky. Pictured with Hughes are (left) Spring Hill assistant Matt Brown, parents Larissa and Chris Hughes and Raiders coach Ben Martin. (Courtesy photo)

Hughes handled punting, kicking and placement duties for the Raiders and will likely have an opportunity to do all three at Lindsey Wilson, an NAIA school in Columbia, Ky.

“They have a really good placekicker, but he’s a senior,” Martin said. “They think he has a shot to play early at punter. He’s probably stronger as a punter right now.

“He’s worked his tail off … It’s really paid off for him.”

Hughes also considered an offer from Culver Stockton College, as well as Kansas Wesleyan.

“Lindsey Wilson was the best out of the pack because they had the best football team and they offered me the most money to go there,” he said. “It’d be kinda ridiculous not to take it. I went on my visit and they showed me the rings they got for winning their conference. It’s pretty appealing.

“It’s close enough to home, but far enough from home.”

Area all-district hoops teams

Listed below are the all-district basketball teams for 8-AAA, 11-AAA, 10-A, 12-A and 3-Division II-A.

All-District 8-AAA

Boys: Coffee Co. – Trenton Scrivnor, Jaxon Vaughn; Columbia Central – Q Martin (MVP), Cam Johnson, Bubba Perkins; Franklin Co. – Kane Reed; Lawrence Co. – Luke Boswell, Alex Carr; Lincoln Co. – Jailen Brown; Shelbyville – Jai’lain Anderson, Jayshon Jones; Tullahoma – Krys Uselton

Girls: Coffee Co. – Bella Vinson (MVP), Elli Chumley, Chloe Gannon, Jalie Ruehling; Columbia Central – Josie Parks, Janiyha Riley; Lawrence Co. – Katie Criswell; Lincoln Co. – Annalise Malone, Amelia Kate Richardson; Tullahoma – Kailyn Farrell, Lucy Nutt

All-District 11-AAA

Boys first team: Brentwood – Griffin Burke, John Windley; Franklin — Reed Kemp (MVP), Aidan Smylie; Ravenwood – Nick Dang. Boys second team: Centennial – Patrick Garrett; Franklin – Matt Thurman; Page – Thomas Seaman; Ravenwood – Noah Clifford; Summit – Destin Wade. Honorable mention: Lincoln Aholt (Centennial); Taylor Spierto (Franklin); Cameron Bell , River Katina, Jett Montgomery (Independence); Grant Snider (Page); Jake Mulder (Ravenwood); Kai’Seanne Brashear (Spring Hill); Konata Werts (Summit). Coach of the Year: Jason Tigert, Franklin.

Girls first team: Brentwood — Amelia Osgood (MVP); Franklin — Kate O’Neil; Page — McKenzie Cochran; Ravenwood — Reghan Grimes; Spring Hill — Sierra Stedman. Girls second team: Brentwood — Sydney Ryan; Dickson Co. — Anna Claire (AC) Milam; Page — Lili Wilken; Ravenwood — Lexi Erickson; Summit — Delaney Noe. Honorable mention: Sophie Roston (Brentwood); Cristy Martinez (Independence); Ricole Alderson, Prairie Stedman (Spring Hill); Ellie Colson (Summit). Coach of the Year: Myles Thrash, Brentwood.

All-District 10-A

Boys: Culleoka – Landon Andrews, Erik Mick, Cooper Parks; Hampshire – Cameryn Bass; Mt. Pleasant – Kentra Frierson, Tip Marlow; Richland – Logan Helton, Trey Luna, Daniel Nicholson, Tyrell Randolph; Santa Fe – Will Monhollen, Andy Slaughter, Colton Steward

Girls: Culleoka – Breanna Dickson, Tyler Reischman; Hampshire – Karlee Rowland, Kortney Rowland, Kayla Stephens; Mt. Pleasant – Emily Crossman, Addison Workman; Richland – Gracie Braden, Allie Garner, Kristen Garner, Jesse Jennings; Santa Fe – Elise Adkison, Emmy Bates

All-District 12-A

Boys: Frank Hughes — Clayton Davis; Loretto — Shaler Hankins, Tabias Sirmones, Brendon Tipps, Xavier Young; Perry Co. — Tyler Dudley (MVP), Jackson Tatum; Summertown — Gavin Burleson, Grant Burleson, Grayson Burleson, Skyler Trousdale; Wayne Co. — Clay Baugus, Tyler Moser

Girls: Collinwood — A.C. Whitehead; Loretto — Karly Weathers (MVP), Autumn Buttrum, Kensey Weathers; Summertown – Jenna Brazier, Katie Burdette, Ansley Burleson, Kaley Campbell, Hailey Jones, Rylee Long; Wayne Co. — Lauren Bryant, Michaela Gallian, Savanna McClain

All-Division II-A District 3

Boys: Battle Ground Acad. – Sean Williams; Christ Presbyterian Acad. – Jake Dykstra, Braeden Moore, Evan Shiflet, Braden Zapp; Columbia Acad. – Tanner Ham; Franklin Road Acad. – R.J. Casey, Levi Cox; Grace Chr. – Will Beasley; Middle Tenn. Chr. – Andrew Adams; Providence Chr. – Max McMurry; Webb-Bell Buckle – Evan Eursher (MVP), Weston Coop, Jordan Jenkins. Coach of the Year: Drew Maddux, Christ Presbyterian Acad.

Girls: Battle Ground Acad. – Kearstyn Seay; Christ Presbyterian Acad. – Emmaline Bartlett, Virginia Glisson, Addie Zapp; Columbia Acad. – Madi Lewis; Franklin Road Acad. – Macie Medes; Middle Tenn. Chr. – Bre’Aria Cannon, Sydney Cooper, Sarah Wisniowski; Providence Chr. – Mariah Edmonds, A.C. Markham, Abby McFarland; Webb-Bell Buckle – Lashae Dwyer (MVP), Shanice Simpson, Lauren Vann. Coach of the Year – Becky LeGate, Christ Presbyterian Acad.

After regular-season sweep, Summertown gains third win over Loretto in region finals

By Maurice Patton

SUMMERTOWN — Closer than the previous two meetings, Wednesday’s matchup between Summertown and Loretto nevertheless yielded the same result, as the banged-up host Lady Eagles built an 11-point fourth-quarter lead and claimed the Region 6-A title with a 60-56 victory.

With sophomore guard Ansley Burleson sidelined by a knee injury and junior post Katie Burdette slowed by a high ankle sprain, Summertown’s rotation was shortened a bit. However, the senior quartet of Kaley Campbell, Rylee Long, Hailey Jones and Jenna Brazier accounted for all but eight of the team’s points in the triumph.

“I feel like these seniors are just going to lead and drag us all, so we’d better get on board,” third-year coach Catie Embrey said after the Lady Eagles improved to 26-3 and extended their win streak to 17 games – a streak that includes a 57-48 homecourt victory over the Lady Mustangs on Jan. 19 and a 61-46 win at Loretto on Feb. 5.

“I’m crazy proud of this group.”

Loretto (17-7) asserted itself offensively from the start, matching Summertown’s three first-quarter 3-pointers and forcing an 18-all deadlock through the end of the opening period. Karly Weathers’ second trey of the second quarter put the visitors ahead 25-20 with 5½ minutes to go before intermission, but Summertown answered with an 11-3 run – interrupted only by Weathers’ fourth 3-pointer of the half – to take a 31-28 lead to the locker room.

“We had a crucial turnover there and they got four quick points (to end the half). They had the momentum,” Loretto coach Ashley Rutledge said.

Campbell agreed.

“That got our ‘mojo’ going,” she said. “Hailey came up with a big steal and layup (with two seconds left) and that got us excited. We went into the half with confidence.”

Any opportunity for the Lady Mustangs to get the momentum back slipped away as Summertown pulled away from a 35-all deadlock three minutes into the third period – holding Loretto scoreless for the remainder of the quarter and scoring eight straight points, before Jenna Brazier scored in transition to open the fourth quarter and make it a 45-35 game.

“In the third quarter, our offense got stagnant,” Rutledge said. “We didn’t get in the flow offensively.”

Leading 54-43 with 3:27 to play following a pair of Jones free throws, Summertown went 6-for-9 from the foul line the rest of the way – just enough to hold off Loretto’s late charge.

“We couldn’t lay off at that point,” said Campbell, who finished with 22 points and was named the region tournament’s most valuable player. “We had to keep going, just because of the team they are. No matter what happened in the last two games, they battled. We had some players step up, because of so many injuries we’ve had the last two weeks.”

Jones and Long scored 13 points each for Summertown. Weathers scored a game-high 24 points for Loretto, with Julie Clifton and Madelyn Tidwell each adding 11.

Summertown will face visiting Jo Byrns in Saturday’s Class A sectional, with Loretto traveling to Houston County.

“In a two-possession game, we’re thinking about turnovers, missed free throws, defensive adjustments,” Rutledge said. “I have all the confidence in the world my team can beat anybody in Class A.”

Summertown girls 60, Loretto 56

L 18 10 7 21 – 56
S 18 13 12 17 – 60

Loretto (56) – Jenny Clifton 3, Julie Clifton 11, Madelyn Tidwell 11, Autumn Buttrum 2, Karly Weathers 24, Kensey Weathers 3, Shelby Fisher 2
Summertown (60) – Kaley Campbell 22, Jenna Brazier 4, Hailey Jones 13, Rylee Long 13, Katie Burdette 4, Reese Wilson 4
3-pointers – Loretto 10 (Je. Clifton, Ju. Clifton 3, Tidwell 2, Ka. Weathers 4), Summertown 4 (Campbell, Brazier, Long 2)
All-region – Autumn Buttrum, Kensey Weathers, Karly Weathers (Loretto); Hailey Jones, Katie Burdette, Jenna Brazier (Summertown); MVP – Kaley Campbell (Summertown)

Photos by Vanessa Beach / SM-Tn Sports

Raiders dunk visiting Irish, advance to Region 5-A finals

By Maurice Patton

LYNNVILLE – A typically stoic Jason Loveless couldn’t help but smile when, with 3:35 left in top-seed Richland’s Region 5-A semifinal matchup Tuesday night against visiting Houston County, Tyrell Randolph and Logan Helton hooked up on an alley-oop.

Helton’s two-handed finish put the Raiders up by 28, and Loveless cleared the bench soon after as the reserves finished the 62-27 victory – Richland’s 24th in 25 games, with at least two still to be played.

“I’ve been doing this long enough that I know you’ve got to enjoy the good, because there’s good and bad,” the 14-year veteran coach said. “When they play hard and enjoy themselves, I’m going to enjoy it too.”

The end was more enjoyable than the start, both for the Raiders and their coach, as Houston County (12-12) got the hosts’ attention early – leading 12-9 after the opening quarter.

“We’ve been in this moment. My concern was that the guys may have been too energetic, getting themselves out of position,” Loveless said. “(Down) four, six, eight, we’re going to keep doing what we do. We kept methodically grinding on defense, we got the lead and built on it.

“We just talked at halftime about how we were up Saturday against East Robertson and we came out and gave up a 10-0 run. We had to come out and put this one away.”

With a 28-17 bulge at the break, Richland scored eight straight to open the third quarter, then countered a pair of Irish free throws with a Daniel Nicholson 3-pointer to make it a 39-19 game with just under three minutes remaining in the period.

From there, the suspense was all but gone.

“We took the lead early, but it didn’t faze them,” Houston County coach Ethan Dillard said. “They turned up the pressure and took control of the game. Their physicality and their effort, their experience – ‘10’ and ‘35’ are good shot makers, they can score from anywhere. ‘10’ really took control of the game, but they were all under control. They’re a really well-coached team, disciplined.”

They can also make plays on their own, though. Like the alley-oop.

“That’s just chemistry,” said Randolph, the junior guard who got into the middle of the Irish defense in transition with Helton on his left and put the ball up toward the rim for his senior teammate. “We hadn’t practiced that or anything. We’ve lobbed it from the 3-point line, but that was the only thing we’d practiced. That was just chemistry.

“We saw the opportunity and we took it.”

Trey Luna – No. 35 – and Helton, No. 10, led the way offensively for the Raiders with 17 and 14 points, while Nicholson added 14 and Randolph eight.

More pleasing for Loveless, though, was his team allowing just 15 points over the final 24 minutes.

“I told them I appreciated them; in today’s game, it’s tough to get that buy-in on defense. We were really dialed in and locked in. Whatever happens, we’re going to play defense. There’s going to be nights when the ball doesn’t fall. I’m just so proud of our defensive effort.”

Assured of a berth in Monday’s Class A state sectionals, Richland will travel Thursday to District 9-A tourney titlist Jo Byrns – a 65-39 region semifinal winner Tuesday over Culleoka. Region champions host in the sectionals, with runners-up playing on the road.

“Winning’s fun,” Loveless said.

Richland boys 62, Houston Co. 27

H 12 5 6 4 – 27
R 9 19 16 18 – 62

Houston Co. (27) – Brison Self 7, Kerion Tyler 8, Kollin Hibbeler 2, Andrew Meadow 10
Richland (62) – Tyrell Randolph 8, Logan Helton 14, Daniel Nicholson 10, Trey Luna 17, Stevie Ballinger 6, Carter Edwards 2, Jace Derryberry 3, Gage Kirk 2
3-pointers – Houston Co. 0, Richland 5 (Helton 2, Nicholson, Luna, Derryberry)

Photos by Ric Beu / SM-Tn Sports

Thrice as nice: Host Loretto eliminates Huntingdon again

By J.P. Plant

LORETTO — Like an opening scene in a modern Western, the Mustangs were running wild Tuesday night.

Both host Loretto and visiting Huntingdon were ready from the start trading baskets in the opening minutes. Ultimately it was the homestanding Mustangs that found their way back to ‘The Barn’ first in a 71-58 Region 6-A semifinal win, clinching a berth in the region finals and the upcoming state sectionals.

Coming into the contest, Loretto was not quite at 100 percent, causing some concern for coach Greg Tipps.

“Brendon (Tipps) is battling strep throat and had IVs. Shaler Hankins has a stomach virus and was getting treatment. So between that and just the wear and tear and their tremendous athletic ability, those things were all a concern for me,” the elder Tipps said after the game.

“I’m just so proud of these guys for stepping up with the gut check and without a lot of depth finding a way to win.”

Tipps was admittedly surprised with just how well his team came out from the opening tip.

“I’ll be honest with you,” he said with a chuckle, “I thought we could compete with them but I just knew we had to be on point because you worry anytime you have some guys a little ill. We were prepared but you just have to give the guys all the credit.”

And on point his guys were — shooting 54% (7-13) from behind the arc after pounding the paint in the first quarter. Three of those seven 3s fueled a 15-0 run for Loretto, extending a 14-11 lead late in the first to an 18-point advantage by the 2:39 mark in the second.

Huntingdon spent the next two-plus quarters clawing back amidst an electric atmosphere at The Barn but could only get as close as eight at 60-52 with 4:05 to go in the game.

“They took us out of our game early,” said Huntingdon coach Porsche McClerking. “Their physicality and size made a big difference. Give them credit. They outplayed us.”

Huntingdon had won 10 straight games against opponents not named West Carroll heading into the Tuesday matchup.

“I’m just really proud of our effort, not only tonight but all season long,” McClerking added. “We were peaking at the right time. Again, they just outplayed us.”

This marks the third straight season Loretto has ended Huntingdon’s season in the region tourney, with two of the three coming in the semifinals.

Only six of the 10 players on Loretto’s roster saw significant action. Five of those scored in double figures, with Xavier Young (18 points) and Brendon Tipps (17 points) leading the way — both in an extremely efficient manner, shooting 5-of-6 from inside the arc and Tipps adding a couple of treys.

Keyshum Hoard led Huntingdon with 15 points as one of only two Mustangs in double figures. Milton Clark added 12 on four threes.

Loretto will travel Thursday to West Carroll — the War Eagles survived Summertown 65-64 in double overtime — for the region championship and a chance to host a sectional contest Monday. Game time is 7 p.m.

Tipps immediately began selling the ‘underdog’ role for his squad in Thursday’s matchup — never mind that the Mustangs were ranked fourth in the final Associated Press Class A statewide poll at the end of the regular season, while West Carroll was unranked.

“I would hate to sell our guys short after the effort they gave me but it will be a challenge for sure,” Tipps said.

Loretto boys 71, Huntingdon 58

H 11 8 15 24 — 58
L 19 16 13 23 — 71

Huntingdon (58) — Grant Bartholomew 3, D’Allen McCord 4, Jeb Atkinson 7, Milton Clark 12, Javon Pritchard 8, Blake Bradley 4, Keyshum Hoard 15, Ty Kelley 5
Loretto (71) — Clint Seymore 3, Shaler Hankins 11, Caleb Davis 11, Xavier Young 18, Brendon Tipps 17, Tabias Sirmones 11
3-pointers — Huntingdon 9 (Bartholomew, Atkinson, Clark 4, Pritchard 2, Atkinson, Bradley), Loretto 7 (Seymore, Hankins, Davis 3, Tipps 2)

West Carroll boys 65, Summertown 64 (2 OT)

S 9 10 10 19 10 6 — 64
W 15 6 17 12 10 7 — 65

Summertown (64) — Skyler Trousdale 9, Jake Smith 3, Grayson Burleson 15, Gavin Burleson 19, Grant Burleson 11, Kaden Trotter 7
West Carroll (65) — Luke Moore 20, Jalen Anglin 19, Josh Clark 9, Jed Robinson 6, Tyler Johnson 5, Andrew Huff 2, Xander Moon 4
3-pointers — Summertown 6 (Gy. Burleson 2, Gv. Burleson 2, Trotter), West Carroll 8 (Moore 3, Anglin, Clark, Robinson 2, Johnson)

Warriors stall on road, end season with region semi loss

By Ian Kayanja

CEDAR HILL — The final buzzer may have ended Tuesday’s game, but a crippling second- and third-quarter offensive onslaught by Jo Byrns ended Culleoka’s season much earlier. 

“I guess it was just one of those nights where the shots weren’t falling,” Warriors coach Mike Lovett said following a 65-39 defeat in the Region 5-A semifinal contest. “We got more layups in the first and fourth quarter, and we just couldn’t get in the same looks in the second and third quarter.” 

The hosts used a blistering 19-6 second quarter to virtually put a previously close game away by halftime. 

“The first quarter was slow for us because shots weren’t falling,” Jo Byrns coach Jojo Northington said. “In the second and third quarter our shots started falling and the box-and-one they were running (defensively) didn’t affect us too much. And that is what basketball is about. You just got to keep playing, and things will fall in place like they did for us.” 

The game opened up with a methodical first quarter. Neither team managed to grab the momentum from the other, and there were visible nerves as each team made early mistakes. By the end of one, Culleoka held a 9-7 advantage. 

“In the first quarter we outscored them and we were just knocking down shots,” Lovett said. “We got more post feeds, we attacked, and got layups in that first quarter.” 

At the four-minute mark of the second quarter, Culleoka led by one 15-14. The Warriors were playing their brand of basketball — slow, drawn-out and focused. Lovett described it as “sticking to the gameplan.” 

However, that would not last as Jo Byrns held Culleoka scoreless for the final three minutes of the quarter. The Red Devils put together a 12-0 run that sent their crowd into a frenzy. By the half, the Culleoka lead flipped to an 11-point deficit, 26-15. 

The rest of the game felt like a mere formality as the Warriors were outscored 21-14 in the third quarter and 18-10 in the fourth quarter.

Culleoka senior forward Cooper Parks finished with a game-high 18 points. Parks was the Warriors’ only double-digit scorer on the night.

Jayden Caira, the focal point of Culleoka’s defensive effort, scored 17 points — 11 during the hosts’ second- and third-quarter offensive blitz — to lead Jo Byrns. 

“My focus was to get on the break and steal a few buckets,” Caira said. “They were box-and-oneing me, so it made it hard to run our regular offense.”

For Lovett and his team, the loss is bittersweet. He is losing a group of four seniors — Parks, Landon Andrews (held scoreless for the game), Blake Delk and Chris Hutcherson — that have helped him rebuild the program during their time at Culleoka, going from a three-win team to a regional semifinal over the course of four years. 

“I have four seniors who will never play here again, so I made sure they knew what they accomplished here,” Lovett said. “To the rest of the team, this is a hump that we haven’t been able to get over the last two years, so coming into next year we have to get over this hump.” 

In Jo Byrns’ case, the team and coach Northington just want one more win as they move on to Thursday’s region final against visiting Richland, a 62-27 winner Tuesday over Houston County. 

“One more, that is our mentality,” he said. “We want to show everyone that we are better, so we are going to continue to compete.” 

Jo Byrns boys 65, Culleoka 39

C 9 6 14 10 — 39
J 7 19 21 18 — 65

Culleoka (39) — Cooper Parks 18, Tavon Bagsby 9, Erik Mick 4, Hunter Harris 4, Chris Hutcherson 4
Jo Byrns (65) — Jayden Caira 17, Ryan Dowlen 14, Bryce Cox 10, Taylor Head 9, Logan Head 7, Kenny Tolliver 5, Dylan Dotson 3
3-pointers — Culleoka 1 (Bagsby), Jo Byrns 8 (Caira, Dowlen 4, T. Head, L. Head, Dotson)