by Wesley Talley
TSSAA’s Men’s State Tournament gets under way at MTSU’s Murphy Center today. The odds on favorite to win this year’s gold ball are the undefeated Blaze from Blackman High School. Their head coach, Barry Wortman, took some time out of his preparation to answer a few questions about the tournament.
Coach my first question is, coming into this tournament what would you consider your team’s two biggest strengths?
Well no doubt our two biggest strengths are that our team is really together and really play for each other, committed to each other. So I really like our chemistry and I really think we have a nice level of toughness. Those two things allow you to play in tournament basketball. When you get down to the eight best teams in the state you’re going to face some adversity, you’re going to face tough times through the course of a game. So it’s good to have a team that plays for each other and that plays together, that has that nice level of toughness.
If you could pick two weaknesses? With such a great season maybe looking past a few opponents could be one?
Yeah, absolutely. Two weaknesses going into the tournament, there’s no doubt we’ve been a team at times that has relied on jump shooting. We want to make sure we don’t settle. Obviously shoot open shots, but drive the basketball and get to the foul line. The key in any tournament play is, stay out of foul trouble. That’s always a concern for a team.
The next thing I want to ask is with all the attention Crystal Dangerfield received this season, do you think her getting so much spotlight took a little off your team? Allowing your guys to play a little more loose, and in turn play better?
Well we won it two years ago and we’ve been to five straight tournaments. So we’re the hunted, not the hunter. We play with a big target on our backs. But our team and our basketball staff have so much love and respect Dangerfield. Being around her, you pull for her so much and all her success, and what she’s done for Blackman High School basketball. We’re not only excited for what she’s done at Blackman, but what she’s done for her future at Connecticut. But to answer along those lines, all the success she’s had we just try to feed off that with our basketball program.
With my last question I want to know after having so much success this season and in prior seasons how do you keep it a “one game at a time mentality?” Obviously you all expect to be playing for championships, but how do you not overlook Science Hill?
Well first of all we have a huge respect for Science Hill. They’re one of the premier programs in our state and they’ve won three state championships over the years. We have a ton of respect for their program and a real respect for their team this season. Our guys have bumped heads with theirs in camp settings over the summer so we know how tough they are and know what we’re getting into. There won’t be any looking over a Science Hill program as good as they are.
Coach Wortman and his Blackman Blaze open up tournament play at 1:15 today at the Murphy Center. For more games this week you can visit TSSAA.org