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Title Town: All of Gleason Turns Out for Victory Celebration

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

- From "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, published in 1916 in his collection "Mountain Interval." Mitchell Parham, assistant principal at Gleason High School, used this poem to inspire the Gleason High School Lady Bulldogs basketball team.-

The championship Gleason High School Lady Bulldogs basketball team paved its glory road right here.

Several orange signs dotted the road along Tenn. 190 on Sunday. Signs separated by several feet read, "Welcome Home State Champs!," "Clean Sweep!," "#1 Coach!," #1 Cheerleaders!" and "#1 Miss Basketball."

"We Are the Champions" played in the background as the girls' basketball team entered the Gleason High School gym carrying the coveted golden ball trophy. Gleason beat Oliver Springs, 46-36, to capture the 2007 Class A championship title Saturday in Murfreesboro.

"We wanted to go where few teams have gone," said Lady Bulldog Kayla Hudson, who was named Miss Basketball for Class A during a Sunday victory celebration.

"We may have to add 'Title Town' to the name of Gleason," said Richard Horn, a member of the Gleason City Board.

Long tables in the gym held two sheet cakes decorated in orange, black and white for the Lady Bulldogs.

"I was calling all around at 11 (at night) trying to get cakes ordered," said Stacy Trevathan, secretary of the Booster Club. Supporters started decorating the gym at 10 a.m. Sunday in preparation for the team's arrival.

Fans, friends and family packed the Gleason High School gymnasium, applauding and giving a standing ovation to the team, who had a long road to victory.

"First, I'd like to thank God. Without him, this would not be possible," Coach Randy Frazier said.

Mitchell Parham, assistant principal at Gleason High School, said the team refocused after its loss against Lake County and "these girls didn't accept no for an answer."

"Nobody gave them a prayer at the beginning of the season," Parham said.

Parham said it was at a rally in Union City that he was reminded of the words in the Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken." He started to read the last four lines of the poem to the girls' team to encourage them that the road not yet taken, their victory road, was still in sight.

Parham pumped his fist and led the crowd in a Gleason chant. "G-L-E-A-S-O-N. Gleason, Gleason, Gleason!"

Parham also placed an orange and black striped tie that he wore for good luck throughout the season near the trophy. The tie also will go in the trophy case.

Frazier said in his 21 years of coaching, this is the closest team he's ever coached in terms of the bonds and genuine caring among the girls.

"It's been a great ride. We've had a tremendous amount of fun this season," Frazier said. He said the Lady Bulldogs played with the confidence and determination of champions. "Being a Lady Bulldog is not easy, but it is rewarding."

Frazier looked toward his team and said, "I just want to say, 'Hats off!'"

Larry Hudson, Kayla Hudson's father, literally took his hat off and asked all the girls on the team to sign it.

Larry Hudson said Kayla has always wanted to play in a state championship. Seeing her win "couldn't feel much better," he said.

Kayla started to show an interest in basketball at 2 years old, he said.

"She shot for hours on end at the baby sitter's," he said. She has talked about playing in a state championship game since the third grade, he added.

She would practice and pretend there were three seconds on the clock at the state tournament.

Kayla's sister, Haley, said she is very proud of her sister. "This is all she's ever wanted."

Kayla Hudson thanked everyone for their support of the team.

"Y'all don't know what it means to run out there and see orange everywhere," she said. "This week has been a dream come true."

One of the supporters in the audience was David Dunning, a 1984 graduate of Gleason High School. Dunning, who retired from the Navy after 20 years, was an all-state football player in 1983.

Dunning kept up with the sports teams at Gleason as best he could while in the Navy.

"Of course, you don't see that on ESPN," he said with a laugh. He was grateful that he and his wife, April, who now live in Medina, were able to come back to Gleason to celebrate the state championship win.

"My blood still runs orange," Dunning said.

Jeff Hatley said the support in Gleason is unlike any other place.

"It's just amazing that the whole town supports us. It's just indescribable. It ain't like going to church, but it's close to it. Overwhelming!"

Hatley's daughter, Kelly, is a freshman cheerleader at Gleason.

Many area businesses spelled out their congratulations to the Gleason team on their marquees.

The celebration also spilled over into McKenzie. Congratulations for the Gleason team could be seen on the marquee of Hig's Restaurant, "The Catfish King."

"We put that out last night when we heard," said Lisa Lowry, supervisor at Hig's.

Grant Hubbard, the owner of Hig's, lives in Gleason.

"He's been rooting for them. He's been following it on the radio," Lowry said. "It's kind of hard when you have a business to get away to go to a game."

One thing's for sure: The girls don't have to worry where their next meal is coming from.

Lowry said: "(Hubbard) wants them to come and eat a free meal."

- Wendy Isom, 425-9782. Source: Jackson Sun

Above Pictures:

From left, Kayla Hudson, Candance Green and Kim Reynolds carry their team's State Championship trophy up the steps of Gleason High School for a victory celebration Sunday afternoon.

Mitchell Parham, assistant principal and athletic director at Gleason High School, cheers for the Lady Bulldogs during a victory celebration Sunday.

Golden Circle All-Star Games: Hudson Leads North Girls to Victory

With the best seniors from West Tennessee sharing the floor Saturday night, the question wasn't whether someone would shine in the Golden Circle All-Star Basketball Game. The question was which player would shine the most.

Gleason product Kayla Hudson was the obvious answer, scoring a game-high 21 points as the North beat the South, 73-65, at Liberty High School in front of a crowd of 1,225. The Union University-bound guard was presented with the game's most valuable player award by current Union standout Kaitlin Dudley, who earned the honor last year.

"It was just great to play with this group of girls," said Hudson, who helped the North improve to 3-0 in the all-time series. "It means so much to be named MVP because there were so many other great players out on the floor."

Dyersburg's Jasmine Yancy and Westview's Ciera Thomas rounded out the top scorers for the North. A Bethel track signee, Yancy scored 18. Thomas, who has signed to play basketball at Northwest Mississippi, added 12.

"You put Yancy and Thomas together, and that's a pretty good combination," said North assistant coach Sean Stephenson, who coached Thomas at Westview. "They really helped carry us when we weren't shooting well in the second half."

South Side's Kayla Merriweather led the South with 15 points. Liberty's LaPorchia Jarrett chipped in nine. University School of Jackson's Becca Morris and Liberty's Irish McDonald added eight apiece in the loss.

It was a bittersweet end to Merriweather's basketball career. She will attend the University of Tennessee in the fall, but won't be playing basketball. She plans on trying out for the volleyball team.

"I really wanted to win, but it was still fun," Merriweather said. "The whole experience was worth it."

After trailing by as many as eight points early in the first half, the North rallied to take its first lead of the game at 34-32 on a Katie Henderson jumper with three minutes left before halftime. Merriweather scored the South's final five points of the first half as the North faced a 41-39 halftime deficit.

Merriweather led the South with nine points in the opening half, while Jarrett had seven. Yancy paced the North with 12. Hudson and Thomas added 10 apiece.

The lead changed hands five times early in the second half before the North took control down the stretch. Hudson scored seven points in the final three-plus minutes as the North pulled away for the win. She was a perfect 4-for-4 at the free-throw line during that stretch.

"You have to be able to handle the ball and make free throws," said Hudson, who was named the Class A Miss Basketball, Class A state tournament MVP and Jackson Sun player of the year after leading Gleason to the state title. "That's what you do when you're a point guard."

South coach Ken Northcut stayed positive even after the loss.

"It's been a great experience for us this week," said Northcut, who led Trinity Christian Academy to the Class A state semifinals this past season. "You had a lot of great athletes and great players out there playing with bright futures ahead of them.

"The North was just able to make more plays than us." Source: Adapted from the Jackson Sun; Photo Credits - Katie Morgan.

Golden Circle All-Star Preview: Hudson, Frazier Together Again

They walked off the basketball court at Middle Tennessee State's Murphy Center as Class A state champions in March.

Now Kayla Hudson will play one last game for Gleason coach Randy Frazier before starting her college basketball career at Union University next season.

"I'm excited about getting to play one more time for him and have him yell at me one more time," said a smiling Hudson. She will play for Frazier's North girls team at 6 p.m. on Saturday in the Golden Circle All-Star Basketball Game at Liberty High School.

"You get to where you appreciate that yelling because it's helped make me a better player," she said.

The combination of Hudson and Frazier has proved to be lethal for opposing coaches over the past four years. Hudson leaves Gleason with a 122-13 record - tied for second-best in a four-year run in program history. She also set school records for points scored (2,292) and assists (686).

As a senior she averaged 21.8 points per game to help Gleason (36-1) finish with the best record in program history. The Lady Bulldogs also won their third state title - the first since 1999.

In the Class A final, Hudson scored a game-high 29 points in a 46-36 victory over Oliver Springs. She led all state-tournament scorers this year with 72 total points. Hudson rounded out her career by being named The Jackson Sun girls basketball player of the year, Class A Miss Basketball and Class A state tournament most valuable player. Ashley McElhiney is the only other Gleason player to win a state title and be named Miss Basketball and state tournament MVP in the same season.

Hudson also set the single-season state record for made free throws (274) and the career record for made free throws (642).

"She had a good career," Frazier said of Hudson. "She knows how to play and is a competitive person. She doesn't like to lose. We hate to lose her, but it's time for her to go and help somebody else win at a different level."

What makes Gleason's road to the state championship even more amazing was what Frazier and his players had to endure when Frazier was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in early 2006. He had two surgeries before starting radiation treatment last June.

After a year of uncertainty and ups and downs, Frazier finally received a clean bill of health in April.

This year Frazier was named The Jackson Sun girls basketball coach of the year. He is now 571-104 in his coaching career.

"Every time you win (a state championship) it's special, and there's a big celebration, but I think I enjoyed this one more because of everything that had happened and the fact we hadn't won a state title in a while," Frazier said. "The state tournament was in slow motion for me. Maybe I grew to appreciate things more because of what had happened. It was a lot of fun. I was very fortunate and blessed to be a part of that."

Hudson feels fortunate, too, after recently getting over a case of mononucleosis. She has been enjoying life the best she can, working every day on her family's sweet potato farm and playing pick-up basketball in the evening.

On Friday she will attend Union's freshmen orientation. On Saturday she will play in the Golden Circle All-Star Game. In August she will begin classes at Union and start the next chapter of her life.

Oh, how the time flies.

"I can remember going through the recruiting process my junior year, and the end of high school seemed so far away, but now it's here," Hudson said. "I'm ready. I'm excited about it and ready for something new." Source: Jackson Sun; Photo Credits: ANDREW McMURTRIE /The Jackson Sun

- Joshua Parrott, 425-9634

 

 

All-West Tennessee: Frazier Had Victories On and Off the Court

Randy Frazier looks back on this past high school basketball season with mostly good thoughts.

"It was fun," said Frazier, who recently coached the Gleason girls to the program's third state championship - and first since 1999. "I don't think I've ever had more fun coaching an entire season."

Before the fun, though, came other feelings.

Fear. Doubt. Uncertainty.

Go ahead and take your pick. Feel free to include any other words that enter your mind when you're told you have cancer.

In early 2006, Frazier heard those words. He had thyroid cancer.

It didn't matter Frazier had won nearly 84 percent of his games in 20 years at Gleason.

It didn't matter Frazier so eagerly awaited the 2006-07 season, when his daughter, Jenna, would be a freshman for his Gleason team.

It didn't matter because cancer never bothers asking questions of convenience.

"When we found out, the first thing was shock and disbelief," said Gleason's do-everything guard Kayla Hudson. "One thing that made it easier on everyone was that he was a Christian man. He knew it was in God's hands, and knew everything happened for a reason."

Although he was unsure of the reason, Frazier continued living his life with hope and purpose. His first surgery in March 2006 was unsuccessful. The following month, Frazier had his entire gland removed.

That was followed up with radiation treatment in June.

"It was very emotional, especially at the beginning," Hudson said. "We were all asking the question 'Why?' and 'Why us?'

"We knew we just needed to be there for each other."

Throughout his treatment, Frazier remained steady and focused. His Lady Bulldogs won their first 28 games this season before suffering a 56-51 loss to Lake County in the District 14-A tournament.

Gleason, though, recovered, winning its final eight games by a combined 137 points. The season culminated with the Lady Bulldogs beating Oliver Springs, 46-36, in the Class A state final. They played near-perfect basketball in three state tournament games.

And here's more good news - the cancer has not reappeared, as of last week.

This season's feel-good story, though, wasn't Gleason winning the state championship. It was Frazier beating cancer.

"When you deal with something like cancer, it makes you put things in perspective," Frazier said. "In one case, you're talking about a game, and then you're talking about a life. Some of the things we went through made us stronger as a team.

"It taught me to live one day at a time."

A special thank you

It's time to thank all the coaches who voted for the All-West Tennessee teams, and the parents, coaches and scorekeepers who called in their scores this season.

The All-West Tennessee teams, as well as the superlative awards, were picked through balloting of West Tennessee coaches. Ballots were sent out after the state tournament.

Photographer Andrew McMurtrie was superb as usual, coming up with interesting angles for the visual part of this project. After this sportswriter typed up all the information, copy editor Art Jewell laid out the section.

Thanks again to everyone for your help this season.

Joshua Parrott is the preps editor for The Jackson Sun. He can be reached at (731) 425-9634 or jparrott@jacksonsun.com.

All-West Tennessee Girls Basketball: Hudson Caps Career in Style

Mention an individual award, and Kayla Hudson likely earned it this season.

She was selected to the Class A all-state team. She was named the Class A Miss Basketball. She was honored as the Class A state tournament MVP.

The Gleason guard also finished with more points and assists than any player in program history as the Lady Bulldogs won their first state championship since 1999.

"I'm honored beyond words about those individual honors," said Hudson, who has signed to play at Union University. "Individual honors are great, but they're not everything to me. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to receive awards like this."

The time has come for the queen of West Tennessee basketball to clear another spot in the trophy case. After wrapping up one of the more decorated careers in state history, Hudson is honored today as The Jackson Sun 2007 girls basketball player of the year.

"Wow! That's extremely exciting, especially with the caliber of players in West Tennessee," Hudson said of being named player of the year. "There are so many great players; so to be recognized as the best player is incredible."

Hudson emerged as the area's elite all-around player as a senior, leading Gleason (36-1) to the best record in program history, despite losing seven of its top 10 players from the previous season. Not only did the four-year starter lead all scorers with 72 points in three state tournament games this year, but Hudson also made 64.5 percent of her shots (20-of-31), 58 percent of her 3-point attempts (7-of-12) and 92.5 percent of her free throws (25-of-27).

She also committed only seven turnovers and accounted for 48 percent of Gleason's scoring at the state tournament.

As if all that wasn't impressive enough, Hudson capped her career at Gleason with a game-high 29 points in a 46-36 victory over Oliver Springs in the Class A state final.

Hudson averaged 21.8 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals per game as a senior. She set the single-season state record for made free throws (274) and the career record for made free throws (642).

She leaves Gleason with a 122-13 record - tied for the second-best in a four-year run in program history - after scoring 2,292 points and dishing out 686 assists in her career. Hudson joined Vanderbilt grad Ashley McElhiney as the only Gleason players to ever win a state title and be named Miss Basketball and state tournament MVP in the same season.

Without a doubt, Hudson left an impression on Gleason coach Randy Frazier.

"I've never had any player play any better throughout an entire season than she did this year," Frazier said. "I think I'm a little biased, but I don't think there was another player in the state that was as good as she was this season. She won the state title, Miss Basketball and state tournament MVP. That's the pinnacle for a high school player."

Hudson's productivity drew the attention of NCAA Division I programs across the country, but she ultimately decided to stay in West Tennessee and sign with Union, which won back-to-back NAIA Division I national titles in 2005 and '06.

She is expected to step in and contribute immediately next season for the Lady Bulldogs.

"I wanted my parents to have the opportunity to watch me play (in college)," Hudson said. "I'm a big family person, and I have so much support from our small town and the surrounding communities. It just felt right for me. I fit in there. It's one of those things where you just know it was the right decision."

Frazier expects nothing but continued success for his record-setting guard.

"She's going to a great program that expects to win," Frazier said. "When she goes down there, she knows their goal is to win a national championship, and we had similar goals here at Gleason. She'll be a glue player for them, and she'll be a leader for them." Source: Jackson Sun' Photo Credits: Andrew McMurtrie, Jackson Sun.

-Joshua Parrott, 425-9634

ALL WEST-TENNESSEE COACH OF THE YEAR

  • Randy Frazier, Gleason

  • Coaching experience: Went 36-1 in his 21st year at Gleason and won third Class A state title this season - and first since 1999. Has a 571-104 career record.

     

  • Playing experience: Played baseball and football at Greenfield and baseball at Tennessee Martin.

     

  • Why I love basketball: The competition, skills and fundamentals can make average athletes great players. Teamwork and discipline are vital.

     

  • Most memorable moment from this season: Watching the celebration after winning the state championship and seeing the emotion of my players.

     

  • Why this season was special: We learned as a group to enjoy every day as a team and not take any day for granted. Many people never expected this group to succeed, but this group continued to work and improve and turned into a great team. Source: Jackson Sun.

  •  

    Lady Dawgs ~"One Moment in Time"

    Click for Lyrics

    Lady Bulldogs Win Third Gold Ball

    MURFREESBORO - Only one game separated Gleason senior Kayla Hudson from what she had prayed for her entire life: A state championship.

    And with the hopes of a team, a school and a town hanging on her shoulders, Hudson delivered Saturday. Destiny met reality as second-ranked Gleason pulled away late to beat Oliver Springs, 46-36, in the Class A girls basketball final at Middle Tennessee State's Murphy Center.

    The victory clinched Gleason (36-1) its third state title and first since 1999 - which was the last time the Lady Bulldogs made the state tournament before this season.

    "It's all a blur. I can't believe it," Hudson said moments before bursting into tears. "We're the best team in the state. It's just awesome to have a dream come true."

    Hudson was a huge reason why that dream was realized. The Union signee poured in a game-high 29 points after hitting four 3-pointers and 13-of-14 free throws. After the game, Hudson was named the Class A state tournament MVP and Class A Miss Basketball.

    Oliver Springs (29-8) trailed for the entire first half before briefly taking the lead twice in the third quarter. After Gleason took a 28-24 lead early in the fourth, Oliver Springs pulled within two twice midway through the period.

    Gleason - which had no player taller than 5-foot-7 - responded by spreading the floor in an attempt to milk the clock and force Oliver Springs to foul. The move worked as Gleason hit 18-of-20 free throws in the fourth and 23-of-26 in the game to pull away.

    Hudson scored 13 points in the fourth after hitting 11-of-12 shots at the line in the quarter.

    The loss snapped a 16-game winning streak for Oliver Springs, which advanced to its first state final since 1983.

    "We had to chase them around, and that gets in your head," Oliver Springs sophomore Kayla Christopher said. "They knocked down free throws, and that's going to win you games.

    "It's really frustrating, but they did a good job of keeping the ball away from us."

    Christopher, who scored 53 total points in her previous two games, had a frustrating shooting night and was held to 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. She was the only player to score in double digits against Gleason this week in three state tourney games and was named to the all-tournament team.

    All-tournament selection Lauren Copeland added nine, while Jennifer Smith chipped in eight for Oliver Springs, which committed 10 turnovers and shot only 39 percent from the floor.

    Gleason didn't fair much better, making only 36 percent of its shots, but had only four turnovers. Senior Candace Green missed seven of her nine shot attempts, but was 6-of-6 at the line for 11 points.

    "I thought there was a lid on the basket," said Green, who was named to the all-tournament team along with Gleason freshman Jenna Frazier. "I just knew our defense was going to get us where we needed to be."

    As it did all week, Gleason jumped out early Saturday, scoring the game's first five points. Oliver Springs trailed Gleason 16-12 at halftime.

    Christopher missed her first three shots before hitting a 3-pointer with 4:15 left in the second quarter. She finished with five points on 1-of-6 shooting in the opening half.

    Despite Christopher's struggles, Oliver Springs scored the first five points of the second half and took its first lead of the game at 17-16 on a Copeland layup with 4:02 left in the third quarter.

    The lead changed hands five times over the next four minutes before Hudson hit two free throws to put Gleason up 26-24 at the end of the third.

    After Hudson hit a layup early in the fourth to make it 28-24, Gleason spread the floor and took more than two minutes off the clock before Oliver Springs got the ball back. Oliver Springs pulled within two at 28-26 on two free throws by Copeland with 3:46 left, but Gleason missed only two of 20 free throws in the final three-plus minutes to wrap up the most successful season in program history.

    Oliver Springs, though, fell one game short of glory.

    "We just weren't able to get over the hump," said Oliver Springs coach Michelle Christopher. "Their defensive pressure is hard to handle no matter how much you're prepared.

    "We have nothing to be ashamed of."

    Gleason capped an incredible postseason run, which was personified by efficiency on both ends of the court. The Lady Bulldogs allowed only 86 total points in three state tournament games - one point off the state tourney record set by Giles County in 1981 - and gave up an average of 33 points in 10 postseason games.

    On the offensive end, Gleason made 51 percent of its shots in three state tourney games and set a state tourney record for best free-throw shooting percentage after hitting 60-of-65 (92.3 percent) at the line.

    Hudson finished as the leading scorer in this year's Class A state tourney with 72 total points and wrapped up her prep career with a 122-13 record.

    Gleason beat defending state champion Forrest and returning state runner-up Jackson County to reach Saturday's final.

    At the post-game press conference, Gleason coach Randy Frazier sat back and grinned as he watched his daughter Jenna describe the emotions of winning a state title while playing for her father.

    "It's a dream come true," Jenna said before breaking down in tears. "It took my breath away. It's just amazing."

    And a dream fulfilled for a team, a school and a town. Source: Jackson Sun.

     

    Gleason Defeats Oliver Springs for Title
    It's 'a Great Moment' After a Tough Year

     

    MURFREESBORO - A year ago, Jenna Frazier's daddy was sick. The diagnosis was thyroid cancer, and to be honest, the prospects weren't the best.

    One surgery in mid-March didn't rid Randy Frazier of the disease. The last hope was a second procedure in April, when doctors removed the entire gland.

    Then the Fraziers prayed.

    "There were tears and lots of them because we just didn't know," Jenna said, looking back at a time when a 14-year-old kid learned how fickle and uncertain life can be.

    "But sitting here tonight, this is so fulfilling. I'm so thankful and blessed to be here at this moment with my dad."

    So how special was Saturday night at the Murphy Center on the campus of Middle Tennessee State?

    The Fraziers, father and daughter, hugged and laughed and cried. In the stands, more than a thousand fans dressed in orange chanted and cheered and stomped their feet until the rafters shook.

    Gleason (36-1) was a champion again following a drama-filled 46-36 win over Oliver Springs in the girls' Class A state championship game.

    "To look back on the last year, to be honest, that's something they make Disney movies about," Randy Frazier said after he led the Lady Bulldogs to the third state title in program history. "There's just so much to reflect on, but what I'm going to always remember is what this group that no one really gave a chance has accomplished."

    Holding a slim 26-24 lead after the third quarter, Gleason rode the coattails of Kayla Hudson to the victory.

    Named the state tournament MVP and Class A Miss Basketball, Hudson scored 13 points in the fourth quarter. The Union University signee made 11-of-12 free throws in the final eight minutes and finished with a game-high 29 points. Also in double figures was all-tournament selection Candace Green, with 10 points.

    But it's the Lady Bulldogs' defense that will be remembered from this state trip.

    In three games, Gleason allowed on average just 28 points in wins over Forrest (53-28), Jackson County (50-22) and Oliver Springs. The team missed by one point of matching the all-time record for the fewest points allowed in a state tournament. That mark is 85 points, set by Giles County in 1981.

    Not bad for the smallest team in Murfreesboro, with no player on the roster over 5-foot-7.

    In the championship final, Gleason held Oliver Springs' Kayla Christopher to 10 points. The sensational 5-foot-9 sophomore guard entered the game as the leading scorer in the tournament, averaging 26.5 points per game.

    Gleason previously won championships in 1992 and '99. Hudson became the third Miss Basketball winner from the school and joined Ashley McElhiney (1999) as the only Gleason player to win a state championship, plus be named the state tournament MVP and Miss Basketball in the same year.

    And making the night complete was Jenna Frazier, just a freshman, being named to the all-tournament team.

    "That makes me so happy," Hudson said as she wiped away tears. "We've all been through a lot this last year, but for Jenna and Coach Frazier, I know this is a very, very special moment. The feelings I have right now for them are impossible to describe."

    And think Daddy isn't proud?

    "There are a lot of things that go to a personal level for me right now. But this is a great moment for our family," Randy Frazier said. "Yes, sir, a great, great moment." - Bob Heist, 425-9751 Photo: Andrew McMurtrie /The Jackson Sun

    Small Team Winning Big

    MURFREESBORO - Gleason girls basketball isn't a "Hoosiers" remake, it just looks that way.

    But despite a dominant run in the 1990s, during which the Lady Bulldogs won a pair of Class A championships in 1992 and '99 (plus finishing as the runner-up in '93), the facts are these:

    Of the teams that qualified for the girls state tournament, only Trinity Christian Academy (131) has a smaller enrollment than Gleason's 207 in the upper-four grades. And with no player on the roster over 5-foot-7, Gleason is the most vertically challenged team in Murfreesboro.

    So how were these Mighty Mites supposed to compete with Jackson County on Friday?

    Answer: Easily. Gleason opened the game on a 12-0 run and rolled to a convincing 50-22 semifinal victory.

    "It's not how big you are, it's how big you play," Gleason coach Randy Frazier said. "We've been playing big all season."

    But it was an interesting contrast.

    While Gleason has stumbled every season since 1999 in trying to get back to state, Jackson County has been the tournament's dominant program this decade.

    Head coach Jim Brown has led the Lady Blue Devils to seven state tournaments since '99, each ending in a title game. In Class AA, Jackson County was the runner-up in '99 and then swept four straight championships from 2000-03. In Class A, Brown took the team to a runner-up finish last year.

    This was also a team that made a ridiculous 229 3-pointers this season.

    Against Gleason, Jackson County was held to a season-low 22 points. The team made just six field goals in the game - all were 3-pointers.

    So much for the experience factor.

    "We realized they had great 3-point shooters, so our goal was to not let them breathe when they had the ball," Gleason's Miss Basketball finalist Kayla Hudson said. "We didn't want them to get the looks they were used to, and for the most part, we were very successful.

    "When you shut down a team like that, that had been so successful here in recent years, that's pretty good."

    Records in trouble

    Against Jackson County, Gleason set a state tournament record by making 20-of-20 free throws. The previous best percentage was owned by Bradford, which converted 21-of-22 attempts (95.5 percent) in 2001.

    But as far as records go, the Lady Bulldogs are just warming up.

    In the tournament, Gleason is shooting 59.2 percent from the floor (29-of-49) and 94.8 percent (37-of-39) from the free-throw line. The record for shooting percentage was set by Booker T. Washington in 1981 (60-of-107, 56 percent), while the free-throw percentage record belongs to Bradford (31-of-34, 91.2 percent) from its appearance in '01.

    Gleason can also set the record for fewest points allowed in the tournament. The Lady Bulldogs have allowed just 50 points in its wins over Forrest and Jackson County. The record is 85 by Class AA champion Giles County in 1981.

    Top defense

    In the four games since reaching the Region 7-A final, Gleason's defensive numbers are astounding.

    Consecutively, the Lady Bulldogs have beaten Lake County (47-31), Scotts Hill (43-19), Forrest (53-28) and Jackson County (50-22). Gleason is allowing just 25 points per game and winning by an average of 23 points.

    In the state tournament, Forrest and Jackson County combined to commit more turnovers (29) than field goals made (17).

    Hudson eyes title

    In her career, Hudson has piled up a 121-13 record as the starting point guard at Gleason. Amazingly, this is her first state tournament appearance and the two-time Miss Basketball finalist is living the moment.

    In wins over Forrest and Jackson County, the Union signee has hit 14-of-19 field goals and is averaging 21.5 points per game. The 5-foot-6 guard has also added seven steals, hit 3-of-5 3-pointers and commited just four turnovers.

    "My dream has always been to be on the floor in Murfreesboro and playing for a state championship," Hudson said after scoring 17 points in Friday's semifinal win over Jackson County. "Now it's this close. I almost feel like I have to pinch myself.

    "But what makes this so special is our team. People look at how small we are, but what I look at is how hard we've worked to get here. I guarantee no team has worked harder and that's so special because this just goes to show that hard work pays off."

    Frazier Thankful for Opportunities

    MURFREESBORO - Perspective.

    That's what this past year has been for the Gleason High School girls basketball team.

    Some of it was easy to understand. Some of it wasn't.

    "What happened opened our eyes," said Gleason's Miss Basketball finalist Kayla Hudson. "We learned a lot about life in a lot of different aspects in a very short time."

    So the Lady Bulldogs' timeline to this date with destiny at 5 p.m. today against Oliver Springs in the Class A championship game goes like this:

  • Ranked No. 1 in the state and rolling toward the program's first appearance in Murfreesboro since 1999, Gleason is upset on Feb. 25, 2006, by Lake County, 49-46, in the Region 7-A semifinals. A program that dominated the decade before with eight state trips and a pair of titles is denied again.

     

  • Two days after the loss, head coach Randy Frazier falls ill. He's diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

     

  • Two weeks later he undergoes surgery.

     

  • In April, the entire thyroid is removed.

     

  • Later that summer, Frazier is deemed cancer-free. It's also the time the Lady Bulldogs scrapped trying to out-score teams and beat the dickens out of them on defense.

    Both have stuck.

    Frazier - now in his 21st season - is back on the bench at 570 career wins and counting. And despite having no player on the roster over 5-foot-7, and four freshmen among the team's first seven in the rotation, he's led the Lady Bulldogs to their best record in program history at 35-1.

    Gleason's commitment to defense has the team back in championship contention. In eight quarters at the state tournament, the Lady Bulldogs have allowed double-digit points in a quarter only once; the most points an individual player has scored is eight.

    One is obviously more important than the other in the scheme of life. But there have been stranger bedfellows than adversity and triumph.

    "There's a lot of things that happened, and a lot of them and what they meant to me, and how they affected me, are hard to put in words," said Jenna Frazier, Randy's daughter and a freshman starter this season. "My dream was to play for my dad, and then all of a sudden that wasn't very important. We had a lot of tears together, but when my dad was OK, something happened to us as a team.

    "We learned a valuable lesson about never taking anything for granted. And when you go through something like that, changing the way you play a basketball game doesn't seem all that important."

    The new-look Lady Bulldogs debuted on Nov. 17 with a 52-37 home win over Perry County. There have only been eight other teams score more points against Gleason this season.

    Entering today's title game, Gleason has given up just 32 points per game in the playoffs. Following Friday's 50-22 semifinal demolition of returning runner-up Jackson County, at the state tournament, the Lady Bulldogs are winning on average by more points (26.5) than they're allowing (25.0).

    They're small. They're pesky. They're the talk of the tournament. And they're thankful.

    "When you see someone you care so much about go through something like Coach Frazier did, you appreciate what every day means," Hudson said. "And I can tell you that we don't take anything for granted - not one day, not one practice, not one running drill during conditioning.

    "Obviously there's a lot at stake (today). And there's a lot of reasons I want to win, but the most important is for Coach Frazier. We learned that there are no guarantees in life - and I'm not making one - but no one deserves this more than him. I've never wanted something more for someone in my life."

    Bob Heist is sports editor of The Jackson Sun. Reach him at 425-9751 or bheist@jacksonsun.com.

  • MURFREESBORO - Forrest, the defending Class A state champion, learned a painful lesson in offensive futility Wednesday.

    Welcome to Basketball 101 taught by state-ranked Gleason and coach Randy Frazier.

    Fueled by its full-court pressure defense, No. 2 Gleason cruised past No. 9 Forrest, 53-28, in a Class A state quarterfinal game at Middle Tennessee State's Murphy Center.

    "I wasn't really surprised we jumped out on them," Gleason senior Kayla Hudson said. "That's what we do."

    Hudson, a two-time Miss Basketball finalist who has scored more than 2,100 career points, did what she's done for the past four years. The Union University signee scorched the nets for a game-high 26 points after hitting 8-of-11 shots and 8-of-9 free throws.

    In addition to her offensive exploits, Hudson had four steals and keyed Gleason (34-1) defensively. Forrest (26-9) failed to convert early opportunities and never recovered, finishing with 16 turnovers and 39-percent shooting.

    Gleason, though, shot 60 percent from the floor and made 17-of-19 free throws to end Forrest's 18-game winning streak.

    Now Gleason, making its first state tourney appearance since winning the Class A title in 1999, is preparing for a state semifinal game against returning state runner-up Jackson County at 12:30 p.m. Friday.

    "We could have done better," said Forrest junior Ayla Young. "We just made some bad decisions."

    And couldn't score enough points.

    Gleason held Forrest to single-digit scoring in the first, second and fourth quarters. It was Forrest's lowest scoring output since a 55-27 loss to Franklin Road Academy on Dec. 5, 2003 - a span of 124 games.

    It was the seventh time this season Gleason had held an opponent to fewer than 30 points in a game. Gleason - which beat Scotts Hills, 43-19, last week in substate - allows fewer than 34 points per game this season.

    "If your team is playing well you let them go (play)," Gleason coach Randy Frazier said. "We knew coming into the game if our press was working we'd win. We wanted to force 20 turnovers, and I think we came close to that.

    "Our full-court pressure bothered them."

    That was obvious from the start.

    After Forrest junior Gaby Bussell hit a layup 16 seconds into the game, Hudson scored to spark a 19-0 run to close the first quarter. Hudson finished with 11 points during that span as Gleason grabbed a 19-2 lead.

    Ayla Young scored the first points of the second period to end an eight-minute scoring drought for Forrest, but by then Gleason already had control of the game.

    Gleason went into halftime up 28-6. Forrest attempted only eight shots in the first half.

    Forrest scored 15 points in the third quarter, but couldn't overcome the early deficit. Gleason led by at least 20 points for the entire second half.

    Bussell, last season's Class A state tournament MVP, led Forrest with eight points, while Young had five. No other Forrest player scored more than three points.

    Translation: It was a frustrating end to the season for the Lady Rockets.

    "We played hard and tried to come back in the second half," said Forrest coach Robby Reasonover, who lost four starters from last season's state championship team. "It was just too much to overcome."

    Senior Candace Green scored eight points for Gleason. Junior Riley Auvenshine added seven points and three steals, while freshman Jenna Frazier chipped in six points.

    Coach Frazier said he was impressed with Hudson's all-around effort.

    "She's been our leader all year long," Frazier said of Hudson, who is 120-13 at Gleason. "She is a player who makes everybody around her better."

    -Joshua Parrott, 425-9634

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