By HAROLD HUGGINS
With a rough opening month behind them, Overton’s boys were more than happy to unwrap a late Christmas present Friday.
The Bobcats started fast, then wound up holding off Stratford 65-62 in a highly entertaining opening game in the annual Overton Christmas tournament. Despite the early 9 a.m. start, both teams still looked very much on top of their games.
Junior guard Jonathan Stovall was very much on top of his game, popping in a game-high 19 points, which included five three-pointers. He is starting to carve his own niche in Overton guard lore, following the footsteps of standout Bobcat back-court guys like Mookie Betts and last year’s standout “Drivin’ ” Ivan Alsup.
“We got some stops when we needed them,” the 5-9, 160-pound Stovall said, talking about stopping a late Spartan rally. “Even with the early morning start, I thought we played pretty well.
“We were more patient on offense, looking for our shots and we played through some bad stretches,” Stovall said. And about his threes, he said, “my teammates were looking for me, and I was able to make a few.”
Will Jennings, the only senior starter, and James Butts added 10 each for Overton.
“We’re without two starters,” Coach James McKee said. “And we’ve lost to some really good teams like Oakland, Blackman, East Lit, Brentwood High, teams like that.”
However, Overton (4-10) lost to another very good team in Lighthouse Christian later Friday night and fell into Saturday’s losers bracket. It was the sixth straight year Overton has played two games on the opening day of its tournament.
Stratford trailed 41-27 at the half, but the Spartans kept chipping away at the lead and pulled within two at 64-62 on a guard Tyquaz Itiat’s three-pointer with 1:03 left. The Spartans later had two close chances to tie, but missed.
Overton freshman guard Dorian Berry hit one of two free throws with 9.9 seconds left. making it 65-62. Stratford rebounded the second shot, and senior guard Kenneth Jones missed a three at the buzzer after it appeared he had been fouled on the attempt — but none was called.
“That’s the way it goes, but we had plenty of opportunities earlier in the game,” said Stratford Coach Barry Mangrum whose team fell to 7-3. “Overton shot a very high percentage, especially in the first half, and we didn’t handle the press too well. But I like our team, we play with a lot of heart.”
The tournament runs through the finals Sunday night.
M.L. King guard Briana Smith took a licking and kept on ticking in the girls opener of the Overton tournament as the Royals thumped Summit 47-39 Friday.
Smith fell hard to the floor under the basket as she was fouled on a shot attempt in the fourth quarter. She eventually returned and finished with 13 points, of which 10 were in the final quarter when she hit 6-of-8 free throws to help seal the decision. Jordan Majors poured in a game-high 24 points for the Royals (8-1).
“She’s tough, and she never quits,” said seventh-year coach Lindy Brown-King. “We picked our game up in the second half. We were missing two players who were out of town on vacation. We made some stops in the second half, which were key.”
— Two-time defending state champ CPA (13-0) drilled Gate City, Va., 79-40 in the Lions opening game Friday in the Arby’s Classic in Bristol. Braxton Blackwell had 22 points and 18 rebounds, and Jake Allsmiller and Braxton Bonds added 20 and 16.
— Brock to Overton: Ron Brock, who retired as Ravenwood High girls coach last year, has joined the staff as an assistant on the Overton boys team under head coach James McKee. “When I found out he was interested, we jumped at the chance to get him,” McKee said.
— Bars named All-American: MBA’s Alex Bars was named second team offensive lineman on the American Family Insurance USA Today high school All-American football team, released this week. The 6-6, 310-pound Bars, headed to Notre Dame, is competing in the All-American Under Armour football game Jan. 2 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
— Ensworth left out: Despite winning its fourth straight DII state championship, Ensworth (11-1) was not included in the USA Today top 50 in its final high school power football rankings. The Tigers were listed in the top 20 the entire season until a week 10 loss to Brentwood Academy. Highest ranked Tennessee team was 6A champ Maryville (15-0) at No. 37.
— FRA’s Irby to Western Kentucky: Giant standout Franklin Road Academy lineman Joe Irby, 6-4, 315 pounds, has signed with Western Kentucky where he will play for Coach Bobby Petrino.