In 2007, the Tucker High School boys’ basketball team started the season 16-1 and finished the season as the Class AAAA state champions. This year’s team has gone 15-1 through Jan. 16 and is hoping to have the same results as the 2007 team.
Tucker head coach James Hartry said this team reminds him of the 2007 championship team that included MarShon Brooks, who is currently playing on the NBA.
“But I think I’ve got one or two more weapons with this team than I did with the ’07 team when we won it all,” Hartry said. “I didn’t play but five or six guys [with the 2007 team]. But with this team I can play eight or nine guys and still be pretty solid on the floor.”
The Tigers are on a mission to go all the way this season after losing to Miller Grove last season in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA state tournament. With three returning starters, Kehlel Assings, Jon Dunmyer and Shembari Phillips, the Tigers have the leadership and skill set to possibly make a championship run.
The No. 3 ranked Tigers are averaging 66.9 points per game. Defensively, Tucker is averaging 33.1 rebounds, 5.7 and 5.2 blocks per game. Defense has been the focal point this season for the Tigers. Hartry said the team can do more on defense this year than it did last year.
“This team has good size, they’re quicker, they can get to the ball and they can trap,” he said. “We try to play defense real hard where we can take the ball from you and get a layup.
“We have a motto: ‘playing hard is better than playing good,’” Hartry added. “These guys really play hard and that’s what we rely on: hard play and defending.”
On offense, the team is led by Dunmyer (17.9 points), Phillips (15.1 points) and junior forward Tyrell Thomas (12.8 points). All three are in the top 25 in the county in scoring; Thomas (12.2) and Phillips (5.4) are also in the top 25 in rebounding.
“They are pretty good athletes,” Hartry said of Dunmyer, Phillips and Thomas. “Few teams can say they have three good players that can play on the floor in their line up at one time and we happen to have that. However, the other two guys on the floor with them are pretty good players too. You don’t get to be 15-1 with just three guys playing in this region.”
As a leader on the team, Dunmyer said he brings his A-game every game.
“I try to lead by example on the court so I just try to play hard and make sure everyone follows my steps in playing hard,” Dunmyer said.
Even with such scorers Dunmyer, the Tigers still have room to improve on offense. Tucker is shooting 47 percent from the field, 34 percent from behind the arc and 67 percent from the free throw line. Hartry said the team has to improve on its free throw shooting.
“You’re 15-1 and shooting 60-something percent from the free throw line,” he said. “You’re missing 10 free throws one game and 13 another night but you’re still winning ball games. That’s not going to hold up down the stretch.”
Hartry added that along with improving free throw shooting, his team must protect the ball better, stay conditioned and continue to play hard if it wants to get to the championship game and win.
Phillips said he believes his team can do that.
“We’re all starting to come together as one,” he said. “We’re starting to get things done on the court and I feel that if we keep playing the way we’re playing we can go really far in the region and state tournaments.”
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