For the second year in a row, the West Carroll War Eagles have earned a berth in the state boys basketball tournament.
The War Eagles punched that ticket with a 54-52 sectional win over Santa Fe on March 7.
Last year, West Carroll ended a 21-11 season with a 56-52 state quarterfinal loss to Memphis Academy of Health Sciences.
Currently 22-4, the War Eagles are slated to play the Hampton Bulldogs (26-8), who will be bussing in from the far eastern end the state, on Thursday starting at 10 a.m. at MTSU’s Murphy Center in Murfreesboro.
And while many members of the War Eagle squad are returning to state for a second consecutive season, this is the first year for new head coach Ryan Mansfield, who was brought on board last summer after the resignation of former head coach Jason Fitch.
According to Mansfield, getting to state has been in their sights from the start this season.
“That was our goal, and everything just kind of fell into place,” said Mansfield, who credited his players for all their hard work and the way they have listened to instructions.
From the videos he has seen, the coach said that Hampton has some really big, very physical players, and that will have to be taken into account when it comes to the game plan.
“I think we going to have to play up and down the court and get them tired,” said Mansfield, who added that they have been focusing on conditioning in practice to maximize their ability to keep the pace high over longer periods of time. “Hopefully we can use their physicality against them.”
In the sectional game, West Carroll and Santa Fe were locked 18-18 at the end of the first quarter, but the War Eagles were ahead 33-28 at the half. Santa Fe closed most of the gap in the third, but West Carroll was holding a one-point advantage at the end of the third. The War Eagles then outscored their opponents 12-11 in the fourth to secure the win.
Jalen Anglin led the War Eagles against Santa Fe with 24 points and 13 rebounds, Josh Clark delivered 13 points and seven rebounds, and Xander Moon made vital contributions down the final stretch.
Mansfield said he thought that was probably his team’s best defensive performance of the season so far.