Tornadoes opening at surprising pace

Taylor Brown runs the Alcoa fast break on Monday at Heritage.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Taylor Brown runs the Alcoa fast break on Monday at Heritage.

Alcoa’s Dee Sudderth throws down a slam en route to winning the dunk contest at the Blount Today Basketball Jamboree on Monday at Heritage.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Alcoa’s Dee Sudderth throws down a slam en route to winning the dunk contest at the Blount Today Basketball Jamboree on Monday at Heritage.

You almost wanted to cover your eyes when Alcoa High School senior Dee Sudderth stationed a teammate beneath the basket as a prop during the dunk contest.

Scary stuff.

Scary still was the emphatic way Sudderth cleared said teammate, pounded home a huge slam and walked away emphatically with the title.

It’s the kind of thing that bodes well for a Tornado team that won’t be at full strength until after football season. Alcoa looked pretty good in a 30-26 win over William Blount in the Blount Today Basketball Jamboree on Monday night at Heritage. When Sam Thompson, Chase James, Logan Sharp, Darrell Warren and Taharin Tyson conclude things with the gridiron Tornadoes in the playoffs, Alcoa coach Micah Marsh could have an awfully strong club on his hands.

“They’ll bring some physical toughness,” he said. “They’ll be in there banging around. We get the football players back, we’ll have a little bit more athleticism on the floor.”

Forward Matt Shown and guard Michael Haynes led the way with six points each as the Tornadoes looked an attacking team on Monday. Guard Nick Oliver pumped in five points, including a 3, matched by junior Chaz Barnes. Guard Taylor Brown chipped in four.

The Tornadoes pressed the Governors throughout on Monday, but it was done more to reinforce a mindset than to hint at any style of play this season. Aggressive, sticky defense has long been an Alcoa staple. Returning to that style of play has been a theme during preseason, Marsh said, on the Tornadoes have taken to with a genuine verve.

“They’ve surprised me, to be honest,” he said.

The footballers will be a welcome addition when they arrive, but the Tornadoes aren’t waiting until then to begin readying for a district that includes defending state champion Fulton. Marsh said he’s gotten strong minutes to date from freshman guard Hunter Ramsey, Shown and Barnes, in his first season of varsity basketball. The high-jumping Sudderth, who finished with two Monday, “brings an athletic presence in the middle,” Marsh said.

All of it is geared to reversing a string of close losses that saw Alcoa finish below .500 a year ago. In many of those contests, the Tornadoes looked in position to secure a win, only to see games slip away in the closing minutes. Memories of last year are what’s pushing the Tornadoes in practice these days.

“I think the guys are really hungry because of last year’s season,” Marsh said. “They were disappointed.”

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