KINGSPORT — When comparing boys state basketball tournament combatants Dobyns-Bennett (22-11) and Clarksville Northeast (28-2), there are some striking similarities.
Both Class AAA teams are quick, fundamentally sound and defensive- minded.
“We’re a lot like D-B, scoring- wise,’’ said Al Cooper, the Northeast coach. “We’re not going to wow you with a 25-point individual scorer. We hang our hat on defense. We’re not a thing of beauty to watch on offense, but we defend pretty well.’’
The Eagles have one starter — 5-foot-9 senior point guard Telvin James — back from a team that bumped off top-ranked Bearden last March in the first round of the state event. Several members of this year’s lineup were on that ballclub, which went 27-7.
“We were fortunate to reach the state tourney and get some experience,’’ Cooper said. “This will be our school’s second trip to state in its 35-year history. We’ve not been down there 29 times like D-B has. We lost four starters by graduation but we have some veterans — guys who’ve been there.’’
Rounding out the Northeast lineup are 5-9 senior wing Jeremy Purvis, 6-7 sophomore post Alex Poythrees, 6-4 senior post Travis Johnson and 6-5 senior wing Greg Magee.
“This is the fourth year on the varsity for Telvin and Jeremy,’’ Cooper said. “Telvin is our leading scorer with a 15-point average. Alex averages 14 points and the others get nine, eight and seven per game. I understand that’s about the same balance D-B has.’’
In Cooper’s 15 years at the helm, Northeast’s program has gradually developed into a power.
“We’ve always been solid and one of the better teams in Middle Tennessee,’’ he said. “As far as the state tourney goes, we’ve gotten close but that doesn’t cut it.’’
D-B and Northeast will tangle at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro. They are in the lower bracket with Columbia Central and White Station. The upper bracket consists of Beech, Bearden, Seigel and Melrose. Collectively, the eight participating teams have 215 wins and 49 losses.
Northeast has more size and depth than the Indians and is opportunistic with its fast breaks.
“We’re athletic. We like to go when we can,’’ Cooper said. “I can see this game being up and down the floor a little. It could be a high-scoring game.
“D-B has a nice team. Charlie Morgan has made (the Indians) play to their strength. I like the way they play. They scare me.’’
The Indians came alive at tournament time to win four straight games.
Essentially, Morgan has a seven-player rotation. Tyler Ailshie, a 6-1 junior, pulls the trigger at point guard. Others are 6-4 senior wing Adam Denison, 6-4 senior post Ben Riggs, 6-2 junior post/wing Juwan Johnson and 5-8 senior point/wing Darius Davis. Top reserves are 5-8 junior guard Derrick Steele and 5-10 freshman guard Devaun Swafford.
Denison, the Big 8 Conference player of the year, averages 15.5 points per game, Davis 10.5, Johnson 10.2, Ailshie 9.8 and Riggs 6.1. Davis has 149 assists, Ailshie 77 and Steele 76.
D-B started the season 1-3. Morgan credits hard work and desire for its postseason surge.
“They’ve made their luck by working hard,’’ he said. “Champions come from something deep within.’’
There will be a sendoff at the school today at 9:30 a.m. The team will practice in the afternoon at Murfreesboro and have a shoot- around Thursday before the game.
“It’s a pretty good matchup,’’ Morgan said. “Northeast is pretty much along the same lines as Knox West in athleticism. Purvis is a very sound player and (the Eagles) go to him a lot. The University of Tennessee is already looking at Poythrees. He’s a quick jumper and a handful underneath.
“We’re going to have to guard all five spots and particularly be ready when Purvis pulls up to shoot outside or when they go inside to Poythrees. When they find a groove, they get happy. We’ll have to make sure we get back in transition.’’