MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — When C.J. Anderson’s shot hit the back rim at the final horn, Arlington was one bucket from advancing to the state finals. The Tigers lost a hard-fought contest on March 14 to Oak Ridge 57- to-56 in the state semi-finals in Murfreesboro.
The Tigers were sluggish in the first half, with foul trouble and poor shooting. Still, Arlington trailed by only two points at halftime. The second half saw both teams battle for the lead. The seesaw affair came down to the final minute, with an Oak Ridge free throw sealing the outcome.
Arlington was led by hot shooting guard Cody Hailstock with 20 points, while K.J. Bates scored 16 in the finale.
Although the Tigers fell short of their goal of a state title, Coach Don Deaton and his staff enjoyed the most successful season in school history with a 29-5 record. In district play, the Tigers were a perfect 10-0.
Friday was also the final game for six seniors: C.J. Anderson, K.J. Bates, Cody Hailstock, Pete Canady, Karson Holmes and Dexter Allen.
The path to the semifinals
The Arlington student section, known as the “Blue Crew,” and the basketball cheerleaders kept team spirits high throughout a season that many fans described as “magical.”
The Tigers captured the Regional 7-AAA Championship with wins over Hardin County, Munford and Dyer County. The one obstacle to a berth in the TSSAAState championships was a rematch with national power WhiteStationHigh School. The two schools already met twice in the regular season, with the Spartans winning both contests. Hoping that the third time would be the charm, the Tigers played their best game of the season. In a sold-out, frenzied Arlington gym, the Tigers shocked the Spartans with a 70-65 victory.
In the school’s first playoff opportunity, the Tigers drew a tough quarterfinal opponent, Siegel High school from Murfreesboro. Playing against a team with a record of 33-1 and a hometown crowd, the Tigers had their hands full.
Arlington let a seven-point lead dissipate in the final 23 seconds to go to overtime. However, the squad regrouped and, led by Mr. Basketball runner-up C.J. Anderson’s 27-point performance, found a way to win 86-80. The Tigers advanced to the semifinal round with Anderson’s clutch free throw shooting and a balanced scoring attack from Nathan Hoover (16 points), K.J. Bates (15 points) and Adarius Avery (19 points and 13 rebounds).
Written by Brett Brewer, special to The Express.