Staff photos by Paul Henry

Fayetteville High School’s Tiger basketball team is one of the final eight Class-A programs still playing in the state.

FHS punched its ticket to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) BlueCross State Basketball Tournament with a 44-41 road trip win over Clay County in the win-or-go-home Sectionals (sub-state).

Tenacious defense and making shots from the line down the stretch decided the game. With 3:56 remaining in the match-up, the Tigers trailed 41-36. But, Fayetteville’s defense would not give up another basket in the remainder of the game.

With 1:59 remaining, Floyd Williams knotted it at 41-41, scoring on a fast break. With 39 ticks remaining, Williams put the Tigers up, 42-41, from the line. With 9.3 seconds remaining, Julius Dixon dropped two from the line, putting Fayetteville up by three, 44-41. The Bulldogs took a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final shot of the game that missed its mark, giving the Tigers the win.

“After we won the district tournament last year, I knew this team could be something special,” FHS Coach Chris Murdock said. “We had five seniors coming back, then we added another piece to the puzzle when Desiah Bartleson transferred back from Alabama. So, when we started booking camps last summer, we played as many triple A teams as we could; we won some, but when we got beat, we competed, and it made us better.

“We have a true team; the chemistry is great,” he continued. “A lot of our on-court chemistry comes from what we do off the court. We do a lot of community outreach – team meals at our house – and they really enjoy it, a family-style atmosphere.

“The community, as well as our administration, has really come out this year and got behind this team, and everyone involved with the program appreciates it,” added Murdock. “They sold out our small gym most every home game – many were standing room only. We had a tremendous crowd travel all the way to Clay County. I’ve had people text me and call wanting to know what they could do to help. It’s really bringing us together to make a state tournament when it hadn’t been done here for nearly 30 years – it’s really special.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone that has come out to support us this year, new fans and those that have stuck with us.”

The Tigers are scheduled to play Humbolt High School (28-3) on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Charles M. Murphy Athletic Center on Middle Tennessee State University’s campus in Murfreesboro. The Vikings advanced to the match-up after defeating Memphis Academy of Health and Sciences, 62-60, in the sectionals. Humbolt finished as the winner of the Region 7 tournament and was runner-up in the District 14 tournament, upset by Peabody.

The Vikings are led by Mr. Basketball Class A finalist Anthony Jones, Jr., a 6’5, 195-pound post working in the paint. Jones hit the 1,000 career point mark this season, along with teammate R.J. Anthony. The Vikings have averaged 77 points per game while a stubborn Tiger defense gave up less than 46 per game, averaging just under 65 offensively.

Tigers vs. Clay County

By Quarter: Tigers, 08-08-16-12 (final 44); Bulldogs, 06-12-15-08 (final 41).

Scoring: Tigers, Floyd Williams, 23; Julius Dixon, 8; Kenneth Ruiz, 4; Xayvion Hicks, 4; Jacious Clark, 3; Desiah Bartleson, 2. Bulldogs, Gavin Silk, 13; Landon Woodcock, 8; Mason Sharp, 8; Heath Kimes, 7; Jake Ashlock, 3; B.J. Emberton, 2.

Free Throw: Tigers, 6 of 11; Bulldogs, 7 of 12.

3-Pointers: Tigers, Dixon, 2; Bulldogs, Woodcock, 2; Sharp, 2.

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