Prep basketball's summer series is now officially over. The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) gave teams three weeks to take part in as many playdays as they chose.
Sportspage hit the ground running as well, seeing a total of 107 games in a 15-day period between June 4 and June 22. Games were covered by yours truly from Brewer, Falkville, Hartselle, Cullman, Wallace State and Hanceville.
A total of 85 teams were seen by Sportspage with 43 in the varsity and 42 in girls. That shows balance in getting out there to see as many each time out, enduring the games under well run organizations from the host schools.
The playdays in Morgan County and Cullman were coordinated by former Danville girls coach Paul Wilson. Games on the campus of Wallace State and Hanceville were directed by Lions' coach John Meeks.
Of the 18 varsity teams from Cullman County, Sportspage was able to see the following perform once or multiple times.
Varsity: Cullman, Fairview, Good Hope, Hanceville, Vinemont, West Point.
Girls: Cold Springs, Cullman, Hanceville, Holly Pond, West Point.
A total of 11 of the 18 teams.
In looking back from the assignments, this is the final analysis of Sportspage as the prep teams now move on for conditioning workouts, the rest of the summer and set their sights on the 2018-19 season that will begin in early November.
Bearcats will have new faces on the floor for Bobby Meyer and returnees such as Noah Bussman, Jayden Sullins. The Bearcats will display Meyer's tempo of up and down the floor, pressure defense, scoring from inside and outside. Cullman performed well on its final day of games June 22, putting on a strong second half to defeat Fairview 71-53 and 46-30 against Lincoln County, Tennessee.
Lady Bearcats see plenty of positive from the floor to the bench. Josh Hembree has added quality to the coaching staff with former Fairview coach Mary Hartline now his assistant and ex-Good Hope PG Nina Mills to work with the junior varsity.
An experienced Lady 'Cats unit will take to the floor, featuring PG A.K. Eastman, 2G Hannah Hoffman, forward Olivia Neal, forward Anna Grace Murphy and center Alexandria Barker.
Depth will be a factor in the frontline from freshman forward Ragan Quattlebaum who played very well in the summer.
A good test for the Lady Bearcats was on June 22 in turning back West Point 50-45 thanks to accuracy from the foul line.
Cullman's final assignment was a total team effort in romping past West Morgan 66-15, grabbing a 35-9 lead by halftime.
Lady Eagles were able to get back Camryn Crider for the stretch run of the summer after she sustained a concussion June 8 in the state officials camp at Hanceville. With Elizabeth Hill recovering from surgery and Toni West a mature ball handler and scorer as a sophomore, the Lady Eagles are ready to soar in 2018-19.
Kinley Campbell, Aubrey Negron, Shae Sellers and Kylon Hamby give the team experience at all positions. Tammy West awaits for the return of Neely Ellison from knee surgery that will be another player to count on in crunch time.
The Lady Eagles clicked in all cylinders June 21 by defeating Oak Mountain 52-35, outscoring the Birmingham school 24-11 in the second half, with Hill, Crider and West knocking down perimeter shots.
Under the command of new coach David Martin, Fairview fought hard in a series of games, grabbing a huge 56-54 win over Hartselle at the state officials camp June 9 at Wallace State. Led by PG Luke Yarbrough, 2G Connor Tipton, forward Austin Turner and JV players ready to move to the next stage, the Aggies have plenty to look forward in the new season.
Fairview dropped back to Class 4A and will be in an area with Good Hope, Oneonta and Ashville.
The Fairview girls are waiting to hire a new coach to replace Mary Hartline who resigned after accepting a job to be assistant coach with Cullman. The vacancy could be filled in July when the next meeting of the Cullman County Board of Education takes place.
Raiders will be a veteran team in 2018-19 with many seeing this squad to be a factor in the county and in area play. Good Hope was a game from making it to the Northwest Regional last season and has plenty of weapons returning in Cole Maddox, Landon Freeman, Drew Maddox, Kallen Sharpton, Noah Fendley and Matt Dixon.
The rise of maturity for Drew Adams' squad is taking shape. The Raiders have plenty of potential as illustrated by hard working performances in three weeks playing between Morgan County, Cullman County and ending it last week in Auburn University.
A highlight for the Raiders was a come from behind victory over Ardmore June 12 in Hartselle, when they trailed 42-28 in the second half and finished with a 24-8 run, claiming a 52-50 win in the final seconds on free throws from Cole Maddox.
Good Hope's area changes from Cordova and Dora to Fairview, Oneonta and Ashville.
Making a good run to the Elite Eight in 2017-18 will inspire the Hanceville Bulldogs for the new season.
Daniel Wakefield's Bulldogs are destined by the returnees of R.J. Evans, Fred Ellis, Damion Johnson, Raiden Morgan, Zeke McDonald and J.R. Isbell. Hanceville will be able to produce from the top to the wing to near the basket. Bulldogs have 3-point shooters and ability to drive and attack the basket.
Hanceville Lady Bulldogs were struck a hard blow when they lost shooting guard Cassidy Campbell on June 4 at Brewer. Campbell was putting on a clinic against Hartselle as the Lady Bulldogs held a 10-point lead, when she went down before the half, tearing ligaments in her knee.
Christina Watson will have experience returning with PG Kelly Pickett, 2Gs Malia Howell and Kierra Merriweather, plus forward Lauren Roberson.
The injury will have some effect, as also in trying to replace center Karmen Johnson, who graduated.
Hanceville will get a new area in 3A, taking on Locust Fork, Susan Moore and Glencoe, trying to qualify for the Northeast Regional in Jacksonville.
Lady Broncos got seen by Sportspage June 22 at the Cullman playday, meeting Susan Moore. Coach Andrew Kelley has experience with Makenna Folds, Maddie Heatherly, Lili Harris, Tess Duke in trying to improve the new season with a new area that will include Vinemont, Brindlee Mountain and New Hope.
Todd Johnson's Eagles will have experience for 2018-19 with Katch Johnson, Jack Hill, Hudson Wood among key players he will count on.
Having to go through the summer with Rylan Jones served purpose for the Warriors. Jones is recovering from a dislocated kneecap he suffered in football and was not available to be on the hardwood for June games.
Coach Randy Jones was able to see what the Warriors could do in his absence. They will be anchored by Kolton Sapp as a shooting guard, Tyler Thompson in the middle, Whit Laney in the background and Brandon Ray at forward.
For the Lady Warriors, coach John Welborn did get back Lexi Shadix on the last day of playday games. Shadix was at her best all over the floor in recovering from surgery in the spring. She was cleared by her doctor to play at Cullman June 22 against the Lady Bearcats and Locust Fork in close games for a team that has everyone coming back.
West Point lost no one to graduation and will be available to provide depth with everyone a year older. The backcourt will be shared between Miriam and Micah Oldacre and Brooke Brownfield. Shadix will factor in on the frontline, with Olivia Ball and Mackenzie Carter. Ryleigh Jones has been elevated to the varsity and will add depth at the guard position.
Kyler Hembree and Molly Pendley are experienced and will rotate among the frontline.
West Point will see new opponents in 5A, Area play with Hamilton, Lawrence County and Russellville.
Best teams seen by Sportspage that is outside the county:
Hartselle Tigers: A good summer was put together in three weeks by Faron Key's Tigers. Hartselle lost only two games out of numerous seen by Sportspage and at times, dominated the opposition.
With shooting guard Brody Peebles a sophomore and in rhythm from long range, Hartselle has experience and will use tempo and pressure to create as many opportunities for them.
Hartselle buried East Lawrence on its last day of playdays June 21 with a 44-10 first half blitz and a 75-22 final.
Hartselle will see Cullman and Decatur as its area opponents for 2018-19:
Susan Moore Lady Bulldogs: Coach Natasha Smallwood will deploy a very mature team in 2018-19, coming off 21 wins in 29 games last season that got the Lady Bulldogs to the 3A Sub-Regional playoffs.
Susan Moore stood out in playdays between Hartselle, Brewer, Wallace State and Cullman. The Lady Bulldogs can deliver in scoring as a running team, plus find the range from long distance.
They began the summer season June 6 by a 48-41 shootout at Brewer vs. county rival Locust Fork.
Top upsets from 2018 playdays:
Fairview 56-54 over Hartselle June 9 at AHSAA officials camp (Wallace State). Aggies came out firing, getting a double digit lead and holding off a furious Hartselle comeback in the final half. Aggies made 5 straight free throws down the stretch to preserve the win. Final shot by Hartselle missed as time expired.
Girls: Albertville 44-28 over Hartselle June 19. Lady Aggies gained the upset by holding Hartselle to nine second half points. Albertville went ahead with a late run to lead at the half, 23-19 and produced a 21-point 2nd half on the Lady Tigers on their own floor.
The week of November 6 is when the 2018-19 prep hoops season will begin. Sportspage will be at various locations through the regular season, including tournaments at Thanksgiving and around Christmas, plus the Cullman County tournament in January and the playoffs in February, including the area, sub-regional, regional and Final Four.
Photo 1: West Point coach John Welborn during game vs. Buckhorn June 12 in Hartselle.
Photo 2: Cold Springs' Toni West at the line vs. Oak Mountain June 21 in Hartselle.
Photo 3: Hanceville's Zeke McDonald to jump vs. Ardmore June 18 at Wallace State.
Photo 4: Luke Yarbrough of Fairview with ball in game vs. Cullman June 22. Cullman coach Bobby Meyer on the left, Fairview's David Martin at the right.
Photo 5: Cullman at the foul line vs. Brewer June 11 at Cullman High Gymnasium.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton