Blount Press Row

Worth The Wait

Lady Tornado basketball adds to unprecedented senior class legacy

Senior guard Riley Hicks delivered an All-State calibre season in leading Alcoa girls basketball back to the state tournament for the first time since 1984. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

It’s supposed to be difficult to make the state tournament.

That’s what makes it special.

We’ll pass on the 34 years thing next time, though.

The wait finally ended for the Alcoa girls basketball team this season, a senior class of Riley Hicks, Madison McClurg, Katie Bean, Laurel Long and Baylee Albright adding to an already unprecedented run for team sports at the school for the 2017-18 academic calendar.

Alcoa fell in a close one, 41-36, to Westview at the Class AA State Girls Basketball Tournament on Thursday at Middle Tennessee State University.

The breakthrough state tournament appearance was the first for the Lady Tornadoes since hall of fame guard and former Tennessee Lady Vol Dawn Marsh led Alcoa to a runner-up finish at the close of the 1983-84 season.

These Lady Tornadoes had quite the point guard, too. Senior Riley Hicks gave a fabulous performance in her farewell season. The linchpin on a perfectly balanced team, Hicks gave Alcoa scoring when needed. Her handles were restaurant quality, her passing superb.

Then she went and shocked us in her final game as a Lady Tornado.

Westview was huge. The Chargers, who entered with a daunting 32-2 record, didn’t have one player the size of sweet-shooting Alcoa senior Katie Bean. They had two!

So who leads Alcoa in rebounding in a hard-fought game that went down to the closing seconds?


She had seven of them — to go with seven points, four assists and a steal — and, folks, Hicks isn’t a very big kid.

Alcoa seniors Katie Bean (35), Madison McClurg (12) and Riley Hicks (3) completed a task this season 34 years in the making. Photo by Wallace Bowden

As mentioned, the 2017-18 Lady Tornadoes were just about as balanced a basketball team as one can be. Hicks and Bean formed a perfect point guard/center tandem. Fellow senior Madison McClurg was that linking, do-it-all athlete who could get you 15 and 10 when you needed. She really brought the D.

A multi-sport standout, McClurg helped the Alcoa girls soccer team to a state championship run last fall.

“We all started playing as one,” Hicks said.

Sophomore forward Destiny Haworth and freshman guard McKenzie Wilburn weren’t exactly role players. The new and improved dynamic duo popped for 20 points a piece to drive Alcoa by Greeneville in a state-tournament qualifying sectional.

Harbinger alert: Haworth and Wilburn led Alcoa in scoring at state with 12 and 11 points, respectively, shooting a crisp 4-of-10 from 3.

Thursday’s loss stings for an Alcoa senior class smashing through precedents at a ferocious pace. With the spring sports season just around the corner, the Tornadoes have now seen seven teams — boys golf, boys cross country, girls soccer, football, wrestling, boys and girls basketball — qualify for their respective state tournaments.

Three of those teams — golf, football, girls soccer — returned home with state championships.

Girls basketball didn’t return with the state championship trophy it so desperately wanted, but then we remember Moses far more than Joshua is discussed. Maybe it was their job to show the way, to show that it’s possible.

Legacy’s a tricky thing, but it’s a certainty history’s really going to take a liking to these kids.

Live great lives.

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