After finishing the regular season with a 19-8 overall record, the West Middle School sixth-grade boys basketball team will head to Murfreesboro on Monday, to take part in the James C. Haile State Tournament.
All of the state tournament games will take place at Middle Tennessee Christian School. The Bobcats are slated to open their state tournament at 10:15 a.m. on Monday, taking on Algood Middle School, which is located in Cookeville.
Heading into the state tournament, West Head Coach Jon Neal mentioned that his team has familiarity with some of their opponents. Out of the nine teams competing at the tournament, the Bobcats have faced four of those squads.
During the course of the season, West played Upperman, Prescott South, West Wilson and Warren County. In seven games against those opponents, the Bobcats defeated Warren County three times, Upperman once, split a pair with West Wilson and lost to Prescott South.
“In preparation for this tournament, I went and scheduled several teams who are playing in that tournament,” Neal said. “I feel pretty good about our chances of going up there and making a little bit of a splash.”
Neal said this year’s Bobcats team is a deep squad, one that has already had players step up at the varsity level. Included in those players is De’Andre Jenkins, who is currently a starter for the West varsity squad.
“He’s come a long way as a sixth-grader. Obviously, starting as a sixth-grader at the varsity level is big. He’s a player who can score on the outside, but he can also drive and get in the lane and dish it out to his teammates. He’s also a really good on-ball defender.”
One other key contributor for the Bobcats this season has been Xavier Farrell.
“He’s the heart of our team,” Neal said. “He’ll guard their best players and he’ll likely get several rebounds. He brings the emotional side of the game that we need and really gets us going.”
Neal named two other players who he said have been solid for his team. The Bobcats’ coach said Caden Finchum has been a key as a backup point guard. He also said that Jacob Hill has been a surprise for his squad.
“We rely on [Finchum] to get us several buckets a game to give us a spark in the transition offense,” Neal said. “[Jacob] didn’t play much in fifth grade, but he’s really excelled and grown into a player who can defend. He’s real long and lanky and is really athletic.”
During the season, West purposely traveled to play games in 12 different counties. In those contests, Neal said he liked what he liked the performances that he got from his team.
“One of my goals for this year was … for them to get experience by traveling places that will give them experience at the high school level. So it wouldn’t be a shock for them to travel to Lawrence County on a Monday night or Tuesday night when they’re in high school.
“Traveling and getting to play in some big gyms … you know that they are big schools, they have a lot of kids in their school and even some kids who bigger than ours,” Neal continued. “But, we just played harder. Everywhere we went, we took the mentality with us that we have to play harder than everybody that we play. That’s what we are trying to in this tournament, is show that we are the best sixth-grade team in the state and that we play harder than everybody.”
A full bracket for the state tournament can be found online at https://www.allprosoftware.net/2019JCHbrackets/12/aptschart.htm.