Marcus Fitzsimmons

Basketball in East Tennessee is a lot like the snow that’s bedeviled it this week.

In December, it hardly seems to matter what sticks and what doesn’t. In February, it’s a make or break proposition.

Hopefully the flakes of frozen frustration falling outside Friday will give us a break continue to melt upon touching East Harper and we’ll finally get to see the District 4-AAA tournament conclusion this afternoon at Maryville. Even if they make for another delay, it’s games worth watching.

The only story line better than Heritage’s step forward in football is Mountaineer basketball’s giant leap forward. From perennial first day one-and-done to the title game, it’s not Cinderella and pretty shoes but Seven Dwarfs sweating away for hours on end in the gym. OK, it’s hard to call Keener Berger or Hunter Bailey a dwarf but it’s still an apt description of a program rebuilt under moves and shooting touches built in the offseason of open gym and during Bill Duncan’s defensive doctrine.

At the same time, it’s just as odd to see a final day in 4-AAA without the Heritage girls playing. The Lady Mountaineers are a mainstay in the district’s top circle, and were again this year. It was just bad math. Five teams with sectional potential and four spots in the final day for region seeding.

REGION: Perhaps one day there will be an explanation of Tennessee’s playoff system for basketball that makes sense to me beyond the financials. Lose twice in district tournament, semifinals and the consolation, but still move on to regional. Can lose in regional final and make sectional. It seems the bracket could be at least a week and several games shorter if it wasn’t possible for a team to lose three tourney games and still reach the state tournament.

Disparity between districts and regions are what I hear but what I see is teams playing for a third time in the postseason in Murfreesboro. Call it getting the best teams to state if you like because if this is what works why don’t we see that concern in most of the other sports’ brackets.

ALCOA: Alcoa plays on with the Region 2-AA tournament starting Monday for the girls and on Tuesday for the boys.

The Lady T’s are now 1 for 3 against Christian Academy of Knoxville this season. A fourth meeting isn’t out of the question. It could be one of those fifth meeting examples if the right match-ups develop. If there was a year it should, a season where a Disney screen writer could tear up and then see the dollar signs of a huge opening weekend flash before her eyes, this would be it.

But the thing is that the Alcoa girls could have lost and been done Friday night after the finals, and still have won everything that really mattered.

NO PEACE IN OUR TIME: On a closing college note. Nearly everybody in the USA South Athletic Conference was cheering against the William Peace University men’s team this weekend. Nothing personal against the Pacers. They are after all only the second men’s team the previously girls only school has ever fielded and they’ve done well — tied with Averett at 9-3 atop the USA standings before dropping a 78-73 decision to AU on Friday.

The conference champion gets tournament hosting rights and Peace, for all its recent improvements, is simply not yet gifted with the kind of facilities to put on the kind of tournament they would wish. Locker rooms, practice space, all those little things are a challenge for a school that’s hardly had time for the men’s 3-point line to really get good and dry on its court.

Given the alternative, the top eight are happy to pack their bags for Danville, Va.

Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at

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