by Wesley Talley

The Blackman Blaze, a school record 32-0 this season, opened up the state tournament Wednesday against there foes from Johnson City, the Science Hill Hilltoppers. With an undefeated record, the Blaze are obvious favorites to push through the tournament and win there second gold ball in three years.

Coach Wortman’s Blaze looked loose and excited waiting to take the court, dancing and cracking jokes in the tunnel. Once Blackman took the court, the laughs were over, they were a team on a mission. From the opening tip the difference in athleticism was apparent, even to the casual fan. The Blaze had the edge in this department and Science Hill knew it. The Hilltoppers had prepared for it, slowing they’re offense down to a crawl at times to counter they’re handicap. The Blaze however still managed to race to a sizable lead going into half-time, 23-15.

Many observers of the first half might have been surprised. The undefeated Blaze only ahead by eight going into the half… but when I spoke with coach Wortman on Tuesday he knew this game would be a dog fight. He mentioned several times the prestige Science Hill has in high school basketball around the state and the respect he and his players have for the Hilltoppers. In the second half Blackman continued to keep they’re edge with contributions from players like Ced Wilson, knocking down three’s; big man Christian Dewitt crashing the offensive glass.

The Blaze never fully caught fire, but managed to methodically score a decisive win versus a quality opponent in the first round, beating Science Hill 57-34. If any other team were to win a first round game by 23 points, it would be a blow out. To a team like the Blaze and their high quality of standards, it’s just warming up. In the press conference afterwards Coach Wortman and a few players sat down for questions. While Ced Wilson was addressing a question, coach Wortman reached over to give him a fatherly pat on the back, showing truly this is more then a team, it’s a family.

The Blaze will play again Friday at the Murphy Center against Memphis East. Game time is 11:30 AM.