Since then, boys basketball teams from five states and one from Germany have taken the title.
On Monday night inside Viking Hall, Bearden has a chance to write in some new history if it can defeat a highly talented and undefeated Carmel Christian team.
The dynamic guard duo of Ques Glover and Trent Stephney has powered the Bulldogs to the finals this year after being knocked out in 2017 by a buzzer-beater from Columbus’s Robert Woodard, who is now playing at Mississippi State.
The squad from Carmel Christian — which has a national ranking to its credit — has relied heavily upon a strong-willed defense all tournament long and will be Bearden’s toughest task to date.
All five starters for the Cougars have signed with Division I schools and that — along with solid coaching — is usually a recipe for a national-caliber team.
Carmel Christian had to overcome a strong late run by Buford (Ga.) in the second half to get to the finals and the Cougars stayed composed throughout the game even facing what looked to be an end to its run when Buford’s Marcus Watson threw down a slam dunk to put the Wolves up two points with less than three minutes to play.
The key for Bearden will be to keep the game at a high clip and push the pace early to make the Cougars uncomfortable. Glover and Stephney have carried the primary load for the Bulldogs with 6-foot-10 Tennessee signee Drew Pember on the bench with a stress fracture in his ankle.
Bearden will need bigger contributions from players like Roman Robinson, Kordell Kah and Shemarcus Brown if they want to win.
The length and athleticism of Carmel Christian will be the main difference and will give the Bulldogs problems, but Bearden’s speed could neutralize those disparities.
The championship game tips off at 6:30 p.m. just after the third-place game featuring Buford and Wenonah (Ala.) at 5 p.m.
BLUE DEVILS VS. INDIANS
Gate City has had quite the remarkable run over the past three seasons, but local basketball fans know that something small has been missing from the Blue Devils’ lengthy resume.
That is a game with interstate opponent Dobyns-Bennett, which lies a short 20 minutes away from the school in a town of just over 2,000 people.
The teams haven’t met since 2012 and when both lost opening-round games, the possibility of them meeting in the sixth-place game on Monday became a possibility.
The Indians got past Science Hill on Friday and Morristown East on Saturday with clutch play down the stretch. Junior post player Charlie Browder has played a big role for the Tribe all season long and has stepped up his game in the Arby’s, leading the team in scoring every time out.
Gate City — after losing a heartbreaker to Wenonah in the first round — ran past Greeneville and cruised by Sullivan East to reach the matchup with the Tribe.
Senior forward Zac Ervin torched the nets for 43 points against the Greene Devils and his partner in crime, Bradley Dean, matched him on Saturday against the Patriots.
The population of Gate City could fill 6,100-seat Viking Hall three times over and a rare matchup between two of the best high school programs in the area could attract some of the largest numbers the arena has seen since, well, last year.
Any way you look at it, Monday’s action will be a treat for the spectators and it is advised to get to Viking Hall as early as you can.
The final day of play begins at 11:30 a.m. when Union meets Orem (Utah) in the consolation game. The Bears have improved throughout the week and freshman guard Andy Jones has blossomed on one of the biggest stages.
The fifth-place game at 2:30 p.m. features Cardinal Newman (S.C.) going up against Mount Bethel (Ga.) in what could be a defensive slugfest.
The Fun Factory 3-point Contest takes place at 4 p.m. before the third-place game.