Look for local basketball teams to bounce back strong

By Staff
Mike Self, Franklin County Times
For the first time in a long time, not a single boys basketball team in Franklin County advanced to sub-regional play this season. Tough first-round matchups in the area tournament had a lot to do with that, but there's no question this was a down year for local hoops teams.
In fact, Russellville was the only boys squad in the county to finish with a winning record.
Still, the prognosis for next season looks much brighter, starting with the Golden Tigers. Russellville has won two-thirds of its games in Michael Smith's two years as head coach, posting an impressive record of 34-17. The Golden Tigers went 19-8 this season but struggled to keep their heads above water in what had to be one of the toughest areas in Class 5A.
I wouldn't be surprised to see No. 4 Decatur (who ended Russellville's season with a 72-52 win last Friday) and No. 10 Muscle Shoals (who beat the Golden Tigers twice this season) facing off in the Northwest Regional finals next week.
Had Smith's team been in practically any other area this year, they would most assuredly still be playing.
The good news is this: Russellville will bring back virtually the same team that won 18 of 20 non-area games this season in 2007-08. The Golden Tigers will miss the steady contributions of senior forward Justin Thorne, but everybody else should return.
Guards Cory Trapp and Siran Winston will be back for their fourth season as varsity starters, and youngsters like Terence Smith and Nate Dunstan will only get better. Smith's third team at Russellville should be his best yet.
The outlook also looks bright for the county schools. Phil Campbell loses a talented group of seniors, but juniors Caleb Thompson, Tanner Maddox and Jonathan Dill will from a solid foundation for next year's squad. Help is also on the way from a Bobcat B-Team that dominated its intra-county opposition this season behind the strong play of sophomores Adam Mitchell and Korey Pounders.
Red Bay was a relatively young team this season, but the Tigers still doubled their win total from the previous year and also won the Franklin County Tournament. Guards Jesse James and Derrick Miller and forwards Justin Page and Grant Fancher lead a solid group of returners, and head coach Greg Cash is also looking forward to the return of guard Anthony Horton from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2006-07 season.
Belgreen's boys made major strides in Wes Hester's first season as head coach, turning heads with their upset of Phil Campbell in the county tournament semifinals. Three senior starters will leave, but talented guard Kyle Warren and forward Brent Newell will head up an experienced senior class next season.
Vina also showed marked improvement this past season under second-year head coach Sonny Tibbs. The Red Devils will lose a lot of size in the paint, but young guards Morgan McCarley and Brent Townsend should be even better in their second season on the varsity level. Juniors B.J. Beard and Blake Thorn will also be back, giving Tibbs his most gifted offensive team yet.
Tharptown's boys took their lumps in their first season at the high school level, but that experience will pay dividends in the long run.
Mackinley Flannagin and Tyler Cagle will lead next year's junior class, and the Wildcats have plenty of young talent on the rise. Forward Manny Ricardo finished the season on a tear, and guards Trevor Hallmark and Devin Lawson and center Drew Ergle join him to form the nucleus of what should be a contending team in the near future.
When sub-region play rolls around next season, look for plenty of Franklin County teams to still be in action.

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