With 19 wins and six losses, the T. A. Dugger Jr. High Varsity Boys Basketball team had the best season in the Middle Six Conference. They also won the Pigeon Forge Tournament and the Area I Tournament.
“That’s a pretty big deal because it’s only the second time the team from TAD has won the Area I Tournament,” said Coach Barry Johnson. The last time was four years ago with Johnson as Head Coach.
Johnson said the pillars supporting the team’s success are trust, toughness and teamwork, and those were especially important this year as the team faced various obstacles. Several starters suffered injuries including Cade Russell, Peyton Johnson, and Bradley Cannon. In addition to these, several backups had to miss games. According to Johnson, overcoming this adversity and having the season they did was a testament to the quality of each player on the team.
“We were blessed to be able to do that,” he said. “We just came together and played and were successful there. The guys were patient with me, and I was able to learn their strengths and weaknesses and how it fit together. The injury battle was our toughest opponent this past season.”
These gaps on the starting line created a demand from the rest of the team. Specifically, Johnson recognized Carter Davison, Kordell Kandoje, Kaleb Hambrick, and Luke Whaley for coming off the bench and making big plays. He also said Brayden Blevins, Josh Sweeney, and Will Churchill worked hard and had good attitudes, which contributed to the team’s success.
Out of a season of successes, the game against Liberty Bell Middle School stands out most to Johnson. TAD scored 28 points in the first quarter and ended up winning 56-28. “It was just one of those nights where everything was working, we were hitting our shots, and that’s just one of things that you remember,” he said.
Individually, Peyton Johnson was named to All-Tournament in Area I, and Dalton Mitchell was named Most Valued Player of Area I. Bradley Cannon had never played prior to this season and started every game as center. Johnson said Nate Stevens had some excellent moments defensively, and Cade Russell was an all-around excellent player.
Though several starters will move on to Elizabethton High School next year, Johnson is excited about what’s next for the team. “It’s going to be a challenge to meet that same standard, but if their work ethic means anything, they’re going to be fine,” he said. “They’re fun to coach, so I look forward to the next season.”
The TAD Varsity Boys Basketball team is led by Head Coach Barry Johnson and Assistant Coaches Michael Wilson and B.J. Miller. Johnson also coached the TAD Girls Basketball Team which previously won the Area I Tournament. The team includes Nate Stephens, Kordell Kandoje, Brayden Blevins, Kaleb Hambrick, Josh Sweeney, Carter Davison, Luke Whaley, Cade Russell, Dalton Mitchell, Will Churchill, Peyton Johnson, and Bradley Cannon.