TRM Tournament appears to be wide open
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
The host T.R. Miller Tigers figure to have a shot. So does defending champion Greenville. Better not overlook Mary Montgomery, Andalusia or Monroe County.
Catch W.S. Neal, Flomaton or West Florida on the worng day and they could cause some damage in the brackets.
In other words, the third annual T.R. Miller Holiday Tournament appears to be wide open.
The events tips off Monday with four games. West Florida and Flomaton hook up in the opener at 3 p.m. followed by Monroe County and Greenville at 4:30 p.m. Andalusia battles Mary Montgomery at 6 p.m. T.R. Miller and W.S. Neal hook up in the finale at 7:30 p.m.
Semifinals on the consolation and championship side will be Tuesday. The finals are slated for Wednesday.
"I think it's wide open. It should be a very competitive tournament. There are several teams who could win it," T.R. Miller coach Rob Atkinson said.
That was not the case last year when Greenville rolled to the championship. Greenville survived a close call against Mary Montgomery in the opening round and then rolled past Flomaton 82-61 in the semifinals and T.R. Miller 77-59 in the championship game.
The defending champs have gotten off to a bit of a slow start with a 3-5 record, but that mark is somewhat misleading. Two of those setbacks have come against 3A power Calhoun and another against 3A juggernaut Hayneville-Central. The Tigers have also gone down againt 6A member Jeff Davis and 4A rival Hillcrest. Greenville competed in a tournament in Valdosta (Ga.) just before the Christmas break.
"You have to throw out their record. For starters, they're a 5A school and they've played about
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every powerhouse around. They've got another good team this year," Atkinson said.
Greenville's success usually centers around 5-10 senior guard Devoski McMeans, who leads the Tigers in scoring at 13 points a game. McMeans was a TRM All-Tournament Team selection last year. Greenville has also had steady production from 5-11 junior Isiah Mack and 6-3 senior Curtis Fields. Josh Hawkins, a 6-4, 275-pound junior, has been a bruising inside force.
As far as records are concerned, the best mark belongs to the host, T.R. Miller. The Tigers bring a 6-2 record into their own event with both losses coming at the hands of Escambia County. The first of those setbacks came when most of the varsity squad was still involved in the football playoffs. The Tigers own wins over four tournament teams (Monroe County, Andalusia, W.S. Neal and Flomaton).
"We're a long way from peaking, but we're finding ways to win," Atkinson said.
Senior guard Damien Jackson has led T.R. Miller to its current mark with a team high average of 13 points a game. Sophomore guard Wade Jackson has stepped into the lineup and has contributed 12.2.
Andalusia (3-5) and Monroe County (5-5) are both tournament newcomers in place of Northview (Fla.) and Pace (Fla.).
Andalusia has dropped four straight since a 3-1 start, the latest was Monday's 51-45 loss to T.R. Miller.
Josh Johnson has been Andalusia's top performer at about 10 points a game with a season best 28 in an 85-68 loss to Carroll.
Monroe County rebounded from last Friday's one-point loss to T.R. Miller with a 67-64 win over Escambia County the following day to even its season record.
Earlier in the campaign Monroe County shared its own four-team round robin tournament championship with Shields and Hillcrest thanks to tournament most valuable player Anthony Stovull. Geocoby Penn and Jerrell McMillan have also been key contributors for Monroe County.
Mary Mongomery has had an up and down season, but the Vikings have strung together a 6-4 record led by Marcus Coleman and Maurice Calhoun, both TRM All-Tournament Team picks from a year ago.
"They're a very experienced team. They've got about eight players back from last season. Plus playing down in Mobile, they've seen a lot of good competition," Atkinson said.
Flomaton could cause problems if guard C.J. Williams get shot. Williams' best game featured 31 points and seven three-pointers against W.S. Neal at the Escambia County Tournament.
W.S. Neal brings a 2-7 mark into the tournament under first-year coach David McCollum. The Blue Eagles own wins over J.U. Blacksher and Northview, but as a whole have struggled to score points. W.S. Neal has scored 30 points or less four times including a season low 20 in its last outing against UMS-Wright.
"We're looking forward to the tournament and playing T.R. Miller again. We didn't play anything like we are capable of doing the first time we saw them (a 54-22 loss at the Escambia County Tournament)," McCollum said.
Junior Cecil Thomas has given the Blue Eagles some spark in recent games. Thomas has averaged just under 10 points a game in W.S. Neal's last six contests.
West Florida has had some early struggles, but has done so against the likes of Florida powers Marianna, Pensacola Catholic, Tate and Walton.
"They've got a new coach this year. They're a lot like Greenville. They've played a difficult schedule in the Pensacola area so their record is a little misleading," Atkinson said.