Confidence, shooting touch lift Ads past BHS, claiming 1st district tourney title in 21 years

  • Head coach Jon Higgins, far left, joins his players, cheerleaders and student section fans to celebrate Farragut’s 73-62 win versus rival Bearden to capture the District 4-4A Boys Basketball Tournament title at Heritage High School Tuesday night, Feb. 22. - Photos by Alan Sloan

  • Farragut players celebrate their District 4-4A Tournament championship game victory against Bearden Tuesday night, Feb. 22, at Heritage High School. - Photos by Alan Sloan

  • Members of the District 4-4A All-Tournament Team from team champion Farragut feature MVP Dillon Atwell, far right, and teammates, from left, Ryan Neal, Dallas Carbaugh and Carter Mayfield. - Photos by Alan Sloan

  • Dylan Atwell, FHS senior guard and eventual District 4-4A Boys Tournament MVP, drives to the basket against Bearden’s defense during the championship game Tuesday night, Feb. 22, at Heritage High School. - Photos by Alan Sloan

  • Bearden boys basketball players who earned District 4-4A All-Tournament Team honors, from left, are senior wing/post Walker Kyle, senior guard Elijah Bredwood and senior wing Darian Bailey. - Photos by Alan Sloan

BLOUNT COUNTY — After splitting their two games in the regular season — each team winning on the road — it was all too fitting that the District 4-4A Boys Basketball Tournament championship game required a game three between longtime rivals Farragut High School and Bearden High School.

The number three turned out to be the key to Farragut’s offense, as the Admirals drained 13 three-pointers en route to a 73-62 win at Heritage High School Tuesday night, Feb. 22.

It was the first district tournament title for the Farragut boys in 21 years.

“Twenty-one years since we’ve done this,” said Ryan Neal, FHS senior guard and one of four Admirals All-Tournament honorees who scored 14 Tuesday. “We’ve been in this situation multiple times in the beginning of the year … Morristown East, Fulton. We lost those games. We know how to finish games after those losses.”

“We came into this game so confident,” said Dillon Atwell, FHS senior guard named tournament MVP after scoring a game-high 23 points versus Bearden. “I love these boys. We work so hard every day together. We just went and worked as hard at practice as we could and gave it all we’ve got.”

Others All-Tournament Admirals were senior guard Carter Mayfield and junior wing Dallas Carbaugh.

“We always have confidence,” Carbaugh said. “We think we’re the best team. And we come out every day thinking it. We think we can win every time.”

Added Mayfield, “We knew we had to work hard to get here, and it feels amazing to know we did it.”

About all of his team’s three-pointers, Admirals head coach Jon Higgins has no qualms about his boys firing from long range.

“We try and take the best shot available,” he said. “We don’t take many forced threes, we don’t take many bad threes. I can never argue with a guy taking a wide-open shot. They shoot them with confidence, and when they go in it’s a benefit for us.”

“We love to get threes,” Neal said. “Our whole starting five can shoot. We don’t have any weak links on the perimeter.”

“I thought they played great; played well, shot it well,” BHS head coach Jeremy Parrott said. “Did the things they needed to do to win the game. Of course, when a team shoots the basketball like that, it puts a lot of pressure on you defensively.”

Three Bulldogs seniors also earned All-Tournament honors: guard Elijah Bredwood and wings Darian Bailey and Walker Kyle. Bredwood was high for Bearden in scoring with 20. Bailey got 17 and Kyle chipped in 11.

Farragut (23-7), which never trailed, led 22-13 after one, finishing the quarter on a 9-4 run thanks to senior wing Isaiah Smith’s three just before the buzzer.

When Bredwood hit a trey with 3:13 left in the half, it cut the Admirals’ lead to four, 28-24. But three more threes by Farragut, including Tyson Jackson’s with two seconds left, gave the Admirals a 10-point halftime lead, 39-29.

Farragut added a point to their halftime advantage by the end of the third, 56-45. Senior wing Elisha Brabson, who ended with 11 points, had six in the frame, as did Bailey.

One might well have expected Bearden (25-6) to make it close down the stretch, as is so common with these two teams. But it never really happened.

The closest the Bulldogs would come in the fourth would be seven, when Bailey was fouled on a lay-up and made the free throw.

Farragut then went on a 9-1 run to lead 69-54 and put the game away. The nine points came on three treys by Atwell.

“It’s a team effort,” Higgins said. “You don’t get this far without it being all 13 guys out there with the same purpose. Right now we have that, and we need to keep working with that.”

The Admirals will host Knoxville West, No. 4 seed from District 3-4A, in the Region 2-4A Tournament opening round game. Bearden will host Karns, No. 3 seed from 3-4A. Both games start at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 26.

Region semifinals, also played on the higher seed’s home court, will begin at 7:45 p.m., Tuesday, March 1, if Farragut advances, and at 6 p.m., March 1, if Bearden advances.

The region tourney championship game starts at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 3, also played on the higher seed’s home court (if both teams have the same seed, the District 4-4A team would host).

“I’m proud of us for being here, it’s what we’re used to,” Parrott said. “We’ll do our best to learn from what happened tonight and hopefully be ready to go at home; we earned a home game. It’s the second season of the second season coming up.”