When West Carroll High School head boys basketball coach Jason Fitch did the interview for this article Monday morning, he and his War Eagles were bussing it over to Martin to practice at UT Martin’s basketball arena.
As the coach explained, they have been practicing at UTM over the past week or so to get the the guys accustomed to playing in a larger venue – all in preparation for the state tournament, which starts today (Wednesday, March 17) at MTSU’s Murphy Center in Murfreesboro.
The War Eagles will be facing off with Memphis Academy of Health Sciences (MAHS) in the first round, starting at 2:30 p.m.
Currently boasting a 21-10 overall record for the season, the War Eagles are going into the state tournament on a 12-game winning streak with both the district and region championships and a sub-state win under their belts.
With a 12-7 overall record, the MAHS Lions have won their last six games in a row and hold both their district and regional titles – though their district title was acquired without actually playing any of those games as that tournament was cancelled due to inclement weather.
From what he knows of the Lions, Coach Fitch described them as a “very athletic” and “very physical” team, and he said they favor a very fast-paced style of play.
“We’ve got to control the tempo,” said Fitch.
As the coach pointed out, his War Eagles can play at multiple tempos and run the ball when they want, but letting the Lions set a constant break-neck pace would definitely go in MAHS’s favor.
But, according to Fitch, his War Eagles will be bringing a lot of strong assets to the court – strengths they have honed over the course of a challenging season.
“We’re well-rounded, and we’ve got a lot of depth,” said the coach. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can play multiple positions.”
Fitch also said they have some good shooters on the team who can either score from a distance or take it in to the basket – players like senior Luke Moore, junior Jalen Anglin, and junior Josh Clark, who the coach said has really stepped it up in postseason play.
“On the defensive end, we’ve really picked up the intensity in the postseason,” said Fitch. “That’s really where our identity is.”
Fitch said he is really proud of what the team has accomplished so far this season, and he is hoping they can add some more accolades to the list.
“It’s always great to be called champion in anything,” said the coach. “And getting to play in front of our home crowd has been huge.”
He also commended his players for the way they hit the court running after the weeklong snow break that delayed the district tournament.
“I’m really proud of the way these kids have fought through it,” said Fitch. “We were able to get it done, which prepares us for the tournament we’re going into.”
WCHS boys basketball has never won a state championship before, but this will be the third time in school history that they have gone to state, making it to the second round of the state tournament in back-to-back years in 1995 and 1996.
In his sixth year at the helm as head coach, Fitch has collected his first district, regional, and sub-state wins this season after the War Eagles placed second in the region tournament and were stopped short in the sub-state round last year.
If the War Eagles beat MAHS in the first round on Wednesday, they will advance to the semifinals on Friday to play either Cosby or Pickett County at 11:30 a.m. The championship game is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Other Class A teams in the state tournament include Richland, North Greene, Madison Magnet, and Clay County.