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Coach Cooper

Super fan’s comment illuminates Tornado closing surge

Rebounding and speed in transition proved a winning formula for Alcoa in the win at Maryville. The Tornadoes host the District 4AA tournament, which begins tonight.

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Tracy Cooper is as faithful a fan of Alcoa basketball as you’ll find.

She’s pretty much all Alcoa, really.

The E-Z Stop Food Marts manager has sat through her share of Tornado near misses this season. A pair of hotly-contested losses to top-ranked Catholic were frustrating.

Larry Hodge got the Alcoa student section into the game with a trio of second-quarter treys.

Larry Hodge got the Alcoa student section into it with a trio of second-quarter treys.

Alcoa fell by five to fourth-ranked Fulton a week ago. In early January, Class AAA Maryville stopped the Tornadoes, 77-75, at Alcoa. Class AAA William Blount left the Tornado hardwood with an 83-81 win just last Tuesday.

Prior to Friday’s rematch at then No. 5 Maryville, Cooper was overheard to say, “If we could just rebound.”

Boy, was she right.

The Tornadoes got on the glass, then quickly out on the break, pulling away from their rivals for an 89-68 win.

After a season full of tough losses to state-ranked and higher classification opponents, to get a win against a solid Maryville team is a relief heading into this week’s District 4AAA tournament at Alcoa, Tornado coach Joel Kirk said.

“We needed one of those,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for a better time to get this one. They fought today. They bought in.”

The Tornadoes followed the breakthrough outing with a 58-53 win at Greeneville in the regular season finale.

The league tournament opens tonight with elimination games. The second-seeded Tornadoes begin play against third-seeded Christian Academy of Knoxville in Friday’s semifinal round.

Hardin Valley is host to the 4AAA tournament, where the top-seed Rebels debut in a Friday semifinal.

Please see district tournaments for 4AA and 4AAA girls and boys schedules.

The Tornadoes put five players in double figures in the Maryville win. Nick Roberts, Larry Hodge and Mekhi Carter pumped in 17 points apiece. Dante Harris and Terran Cox finished with 16 each.

Maliki Salter and Dante Harris get hyped during player introductions.

Maliki Salter and Dante Harris get hyped during player introductions.

Hodge, in the second quarter, and Carter, a breakout third, both sank a trio of 3-pointers. Jonathan Webb hit twice from the arc, Roberts once as Alcoa pumped in nine treys all told.

Hodge got so hot the Alcoa student section began chanting his name.

“It gives me a lot of confidence,” he said. “It gets us going.”

The Rebels’ shooting legs began failing them midway through the opening half. The third-quarter treys from Carter, Webb and Roberts helped Alcoa open a 59-49 lead to start the fourth. That’s not what produced a 30-point outburst the final eight minutes, though.

Not a single 3-pointer fell as the Tornadoes turned every defensive rebound, every Rebel turnover, into a fast-break opportunity.

“Basically, we didn’t let up,” Harris said.

Kirk helped with the motivation for Friday’s win before the Tornadoes left campus, Roberts said.

“We had a film session before we came to the game,” the freshman post player said. “No offense. All defense.”

Most of the session focused on the loss to the Governors, Kirk said, rebounding, or the lack thereof, in particular.

“We watched the film against William Blount, without one offensive play (included),” he said. “If we want it more, we’ve got the athletes to go get those rebounds.”

So Cooper was right?

“That’s all (the coaching staff) preached,” Cox said. “We had to crash the boards.”

Wonder what Cooper’s thoughts are on the 1-3-1 halfcourt trap?

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