Postseason plans and regular season recognition were on the menu as the District 5-AAA basketball coaches met for lunch Wednesday.
Along with making plans for next week's league tournament at Walker Valley's "Stable," the awards for the regular season were handed out, with three of the four top prizes going to Bradley Countians, along with 18 of the 30 all-district team spots.
Cleveland High walked away with the top two boys honors with senior Belmont signee JaCobi Wood and first-year mentor Reggie Tucker being voted Player and Coach of the Year.
"My players. It was about them. It's definitely not about me," Tucker reacted to the award. "I appreciate the guys (fellow coaches) voting for me, but I'm more proud of JaCobi getting Player of the Year."
Despite his Bearettes dominating 5-AAA play for the past decade, to the tune of a 138-4 record, Bradley Central's Jason Reuter was awarded his first Coach of the Year honor.
"I'm flattered and honored to win the award," remarked the veteran whose teams have won 89% of their games (288-36). "It's been an enjoyable 10 years and to finally win this award, which is voted by your colleagues, I appreciate the respect.
"This award is more a reflection of the players you have and for us to have all five of our starters voted to the all-district team by the other coaches (coaches cannot vote for their own players) speaks highly of our team. We've never had that before, since I've been here."
Bearette seniors Anna Walker, a UTC signee, Cambree Mayo and Alexis Barnes, plus juniors Anna Muhonen and Jamia Williams made up a third of the 15-player honor squad.
"I would trade any kind of individual award for a team award," Reuter declared. "I appreciate the voting for our players, but they'll tell you they want the team awards over the individual.
"These (the district awards) are nice, but they will soon fade. What will last is things like the state championship we won last year. Every girl on that team will always be known as a state champion, whether they made all-district or all-tournament or not."
Reigning Ms. Tennessee Basketball Madison Hayes, of East Hamilton, was named as the Girls Player of the Year.
Both Wood and Hayes were unanimous choices by the coaches, but despite their teams being ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press state poll all season, Tucker and Reuter weren't.
Other locals making the Girls' All-District squad were Cleveland senior Bailey Anderson, plus juniors Kara Williams and Mariyah Person, as well as Lee University signee Laney Harris, of Walker Valley.
On the boys side, Raider senior Morrell Schramm, plus juniors Grant Hurst and Barkley McGowan were honored, along with Bear sophomore Quante Berry as well as juniors Tray Curry and Mason Rothwell, plus Mustang seniors Blake Campbell, Jake Smith and Sam Belau.
With the exception of Friday night's Cleveland-Walker Valley boys showdown, the tournament seeds were set and schedule filled out.
Regardless of tomorrow's outcome, the Runnin' Raiders (27-0, 11-0) are the No. 1 seed. An upset by the Mustangs (17-9, 6-5) would give the hosts the third seed, putting them on the opposite end of the bracket from regular season champs.
"I'm excited about the tournament," Coach Tucker proclaimed. "We've got some great coaches and great talent in our league, so it should be a great tournament.
"We've just got to focus on us and being locked in. We talk about it every day. We know there are some teams that are very capable in our district, but our main focus has to be on us. We've got to take care of ourselves.
"We don't want to take our foot off the gas. It's too late in the season to do that. We don't want to get comfortable," he assessed.
The Cleveland squads aren't padding their unbeaten record with easy victories this final regular season week as they knocked off state-ranked opponents Oak Ridge and Maryville the last two nights.
"We're playing some tough teams to get us ready, but then we have a long week off before we play again (on Saturday, Feb. 22), so I don't know if that's a good thing," Tucker commented.
"We had a week and a half wait last year before we went to play in the state tournament last year and it was tough to keep the guys focused and prepared during the time."
Cleveland will await the winner of the 4-5 game, which will either be Walker Valley and McMinn County (16-9, 6-6), if the Raiders prevail Friday night, or the winner of East Hamilton (12-12, 6-6) and the Cherokees, if the Herd is able to pull of the upset.
If they are the 3 seed, the Mustangs will play on Friday, Feb. 21, but should they end up in the 4-5 game, it will tip next Thursday evening.
Bradley Central (19-5, 10-2) earned the No. 2 seed and will battle the survivor of the 6-7 game between Ooltewah (11-16, 2-10) and Soddy-Daisy (6-17, 0-12) in the semifinals. The Owls and Trojans will open the boys tournament on Wednesday evening at 7:30.
In the girls action, Soddy-Daisy (8-17, 2-10) will tangle with Ooltewah (3-18, 0-12) in Wednesday's opener at 6 p.m. with the winner advancing to face the third seed on the 21st.
If Cleveland (18-10, 8-3) gets past Walker Valley (9-17, 4-7) for a second time this season tomorrow night, they would end up tied for second place with East Hamilton (16-11, 9-3). A coin flip yesterday gave the tiebreaker to the Lady Raiders.
However, if the Fillies, which gave the Lady Hurricanes all they wanted last week, get feisty and pull off a surprise, then East Ham would be the district runner-up and CHS would slide to the No. 3 slot.
Win or lose tomorrow, the Valley girls are the No. 5 seed for the tournament and will take on fourth-seeded McMinn County (12-13, 6-6) on Feb. 21, with the winner advancing to face the Bearettes the following day.
"I see a very challenging field in front of us for the district tournament," assessed Coach Reuter. "This is the longest gap between games I've ever had in my career as a head coach or assistant. We've got 11 days before we play again.
"While it gives you a lot of time to prepare, it also produces a lot of rust, which we showed with a slow start last night (Tuesday at Soddy-Daisy).
"We were rusty at the start of the game because of the lack of practice due to the inclement weather we've had cancelling school," he added.
"We are the favorite going into the tournament, but East Ham(ilton) took us to overtime at our place once and we only beat them by eight points down there.
"Cleveland has played us tight, within 15 and 12 (points), plus they've played very well against some top teams (upset Oak Ridge 54-40 Tuesday and took Maryville to overtime before getting nipped 62-60 last night)," Reuter commented.
"We know people are gunning for us, and they should be because we've won this thing nine times in a row. We're going to try to make it 10.
"Whether we win this thing or not, I've got a group of girls that are going to give everything they've got for the Bradley Bearettes," he summarized. "When you've got that, you can lay down at night and sleep pretty good. I know I have a group of girls that are going to fight very, very hard."
Coach of the Year — Jason Reuter, Bradley Central
Player of the Year — Madison Hayes, East Hamilton
Anna Walker, Anna Muhonen, Alexis Barnes, Jamia Williams, Cambree Mayo (Bradley Central); Kara Williams, Bailey Anderson, Mariyah Person (Cleveland); Laney Harris (Walker Valley); McKenna Hayes, Dezah Lacy, Eliziah Laboo (East Hamilton); and Peytyn Oliver, Whitney Green, Ashley Baxter (McMinn County).
Coach of the Year — Reggie Tucker, Cleveland
Player of the Year — JaCobi Wood, Cleveland
Quante Berry, Tray Curry, Mason Rothwell (Bradley Central); Grant Hurst, Morrell Schramm, Barkley McGowan (Cleveland); Blake Campbell, Jake Smith, Sam Belau (Walker Valley); Marcus Long, Darwin Randolph (East Hamilton); Ty Runyan, Colby Brown, Davion Evans (McMinn County); and Deleon Petty (Ooltewah).