Campbell Countians share memories of playing, coaching, officiating in the state basketball tourney

Veteran official Bobby Vann makes a call at his third state tournament, the 2019 boys AAA championship game.

By Jim Freeman

LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – A couple of comments the other day from Jeff Troutman triggered an idea for a story on the state basketball tournament. Jeff, who served for years as a TSSAA basketball official, recently shared a couple of fun memories with me, and I thought it might be fitting to see what others had to say about playing or coaching in the postseason.

Jeff Troutman – TSSAA Official (retired) …The TSSAA told me and my crew we needed to arrive an hour before tip-off of this sub-state tournament game at Decatur.  It’s a Meigs County home game.  We get there at 6pm like we were supposed to, and the parking lot was full.  We walked into the gym, and it was already standing room only an hour before the tip off.”

Mike Reynolds Jellico Head Coach …The excitement our players had for the tournament really made an impression on me. Seeing the grit they showed to get us here will stay with me. As Jody Wright says anytime your season ends at Murfreesboro, you’ve had a good year. I’m sure the further I get away from this tournament, I think there’ll be more memories that will surface.”

Jill Browning – Campbell Lady Cougar player …There’s so many wonderful memories of our state tournament appearance in 1991. A few of my favorite memories are the community support we had and drawing out of the hat to play Shelbyville, the # 1 team in the country that had won back-to-back state titles.  We had tremendous community support, and our fans were unbelievable.  The people loved our team, and it showed from the packed out games we had for both the home and away games   It was standing room only.  Our parents were all close, and they rooted for us all.  The second most memorable state tournament event was playing the best team in the country and getting to defend the point guard that signed with the Tennessee Lady Vols, Tiffany Woosley.  This time in my life was some of the most precious times of my life.  I often relive all the excitement we had in my mind and what a wonderful time it was . I have to thank God my family, Coach Sherry Chapman, and Coach Brent Peel for all the support and encouragement to get us where we were.  Go blue Devils!!!!  Enjoy and savor it all for these times will bring joy and happiness for a lifetime!!”

Jimmy Pack – Wynn Bulldog player …Coach Wayne Kitts designed a play to get me to draw a charge on a Mack truck (Sylvester Gray, 6-6 230), but really it was one of the best times of my life being on the first and only team to go to state in Bulldog history.  Coach Kitts was a great coach and wanted all his players to be great not only in the game but at life.  At 55, I still fall back on some of the lessons he taught us on and off the court.  Coach Kitts was and still is one of the greatest in my book.  He taught and pushed a group of boys to a place nobody ever thought we would go; the state basketball tournament.”

Sherry Chapman – Campbell Head Coach …It was a fun group of girls that knew how to win and expected to win when we stepped on the floor.  They worked extremely hard every day in practice, but my best memory of that team is the determination each player brought.  They just knew we were going to the state that year.  It’s a chance of a lifetime, and I hope Jellico wins it all.”

Bobby Vann Official …I’ve been to the state tournament three times to officiate, and that’s pretty much the max. But I would go back today if called on. It’s a terrific atmosphere and very professionally ran.”

Regina Kennedy – Wynn Lady Bulldog player …Although it was a long time ago, I remember the feeling of walking on the gym for the State tournament and feeling the excitement of being there. To my knowledge, our school had never made it to the State tournament, much less the girls’ team. It was an honor to be good enough to get there and play. It was fun traveling with our team and the community’s support. I say now to Jellico, “Go, Blue Devils! You’ve already made us proud by getting there!”

Ernie Mac Clawson Powell Valley Indian player (Campbell Head Basketball Coach) … March 1995, 29 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. The feeling of elation and gratitude was insurmountable as I walked into the Glass House (Murphy Center) for the first time. What we worked hard for and dreamed about for so long had come to fruition. Running out of the tunnel for the first time and seeing one side of the Murphy Center decked out in Powell Valley orange while cheering as loud as they could still gives me chill bumps! Also, to be able to play and defeat Brentwood Academy by 27 in the first round was very memorable. There were seven seniors on that team, and still to this day, we meet with Coach Dennis Cline every year around Christmas to reflect on all those memories. We will always be brothers of the heart! I want to congratulate Jellico on a wonderful year and their accomplishments. They will never forget this wonderful season.”

Wayne Kitts Wynn Head Coach …We thought we were pretty good. But you know, especially for a small school, it all has to fall into place to get to the state tournament. The district semi-final game against Coalfield at Coalfield is a prime example. We were down by seven with 28-seconds to go, pressed them into turnovers and Romney Douglas, who passed away last year, hit the winning shot. Jellico was our arch rival, losing twice to us that year, and their principal, I’ll never forget, Johnny Clifton, sent a letter to the school, and our principal Glenn Morton read it front of the whole school. It was such a classy gesture, and the letter wished us good luck and outlined our accomplishments to that point which was winning the district tournament.

Kermit Marlow hit 18-straight free throws in our loss to Bolton in the first game of the state tournament, and his record stood for decades. Bolton had Sylvester Grey (future NBA player) and Lang Wiseman, who had a stellar career for the Tennessee Vols. We had the Marlow brothers, Kermit and Sammy, and we had a good supporting cast with included our fire chief Jimmy Pack.”

Jody Wright – Fulton Head Coach (Caryville native) …My focus gets pretty laser like this time of the year, and my girls still give me a hard time about this. It’s 1990 and I’m bringing my first team to the state tournament and my oldest daughter Lauren is three weeks old. My wife is packing the car up and getting things ready and I walk out of our hotel room, leaving our three week old daughter just laying on the bed. Kim got into a panic when she saw me driving off with the team and realized Lauren was in the room by herself. Actually, I had no idea Lauren was even in the room. It’s always funny to watch the players’ superstitions this time of year. We were playing in 2008, and James Gallman and Jalen Steele had gone to Hibbett sports and bought some black socks with white stripes at the top. They had a fantastic game that night as we won by about 40 points. The next day, I’ll look up everybody’s got black socks with white stripes around the top. It must’ve worked. We won our first state championship that year.”

Jeff Troutman – TSSAA Official (retired) …There was a sub-state game at Celina, Clay County, and the crew and I stopped at this little market there in town, before the game.  There was a sign on the door that read “We’ll be closed for the game.”  I couldn’t help but ask if there’s a game tonight, and the woman behind the counter said “Lord, yes, there’s a game here tonight, honey.” (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 03/15/2024-6AM)