The Briarcrest Saints basketball team has advanced to the state tournament eight times since 2009; that’s all but three seasons.
Briarcrest, however, has zero titles to show for those appearances. The last state title the Saints won came in 2008.
That is perhaps why the team’s reaction was what it was after a 70-36 win over Montgomery Bell Academy Saturday at home in a sub-state game that propelled the Saints into this week’s DII-AA state tournament in Nashville.
“Usually, after a sub-state win, water is flying everywhere and everybody is really excited,” said Saints coach John Harrington, who was also the coach in 2008. “They just sat there like, ‘What’s next?’ I wish they would have appreciated it a little more, but I think they have their sights set on bigger issues.”
That issue is clearly winning a state title and that quest begins today at 4:45 p.m. at David Lipscomb University in a semifinal game against Ensworth. A win there would put the Saints in the state title game Saturday at 2 p.m. against Brentwood Academy or Baylor.
Briacrest enters the state tournament with an impressive resume. The Saints are 27-2, the best record among the four teams at state, and have played a brutal schedule against some of the best teams in the country.
The teams only two losses have come against Jonesboro and Bartlett, both of which are making deep postseason runs in their divisions.
“I never, ever thought we would have won this many games playing the teams we played,” Harrington said.
Sophomore Kennedy Chandler, a Mr. Basketball finalist, has led the way, averaging 19 points per game, but several other players have made key contributions.
Junior Marcellus Brigham, the team’s leading rebounder, scored 24 points in the team’s sub-state win. Omari Thomas and Michael Malone, two more juniors, have played very well of late.
Harrington describes his team as very balanced.
“Kennedy would not be a Mr. Basketball finalist if we were 12-12,” Harrington said. “He’ll be the first one to tell you his success is based on the team.”
The other two Mr. Basketball finalists will also be at the state tournament: Randy Brady of Brentwood and Beyuan Hicks of Baylor.
Baylor beat Briarcrest in last year’s state semifinals and Brentwood on the state title.
During a recent Briarcrest practice, assistant coach Chris Rinehart was wearing a state title ring he won as a Saints assistant coach in 2008.
Several of the players on this year’s team have won AAU titles over the years, but no one was won at high school’s top level.
The players noticed Rinehart’s ring.
“Winning a high school state championship, there’s really nothing like it. There really isn’t,” Harrington said. “The guys looked at his ring. Now you see what the goal is, there’s an object we’re playing for.”