Power forward

Handley and junior forward Grace Rittenhouse will try to win their fifth straight county tournament championship this weekend.

Over the past five years the county tournament has become something of a three-day victory lap for the Handley basketball program.

The last time a team other than Handley won either the boys or girls varsity tournament was 2014, when Woodland rolled out its powerhouse lineup of Leah Strain, Shalyn Strain, Shanna Strain, Jaide Walker and Adre Bowen and cruised to the title on their way to a second consecutive state championship.

Handley's boys have now won 11 straight tournaments, which means that the seniors on this year's team were in kindergarten the last time Handley failed to claim the county tournament title.

With this year's tournament taking place on Handley's home court, the stars seem to be aligned for another weekend of Handley dominance.

With the tournament starting tonight, let's take a look at each team, power rankings style, and see if there's an upset or two brewing that could put an end to Handley's tournament win streak.


4. Wadley

Record: 0-10

County tournament titles: 2

Last tournament won: 2006

Analysis: The Lady Bulldogs enter the tournament still looking for their first win of the season. The likelihood that they will manage that win against a very athletic Handley team in Friday's first-round game is slim. They'll need some hot shooting from Kaity Overton and Madison Gilliland and an off night from Handley to keep that game close.


Record: 1-10

County tournament titles: 1

Last tournament won: 2004

Analysis: RCHS has three shooters in Emma Prestridge, Kaylee Robinson and Kamren Bivins that could make things interesting if they all get hot. That may be easier said than done in tonight's first round against a Woodland team that beat them 58-18 when the teams met on December 20.

2. Woodland

Record: 8-5

County tournament titles: 14

Last tournament won: 2014

Analysis: Woodland started the season 6-0 but has struggled to maintain that success in a very tough area. Area losses to Ranburne, LaFayette and Horseshoe Bend have brought the young Lady Bobcats back to earth, but those games should serve as good preparation if they are to advance to Saturday's finals and meet Handley. Perhaps the most important fact about this Woodland team? They are starting to figure things out with a roster that features no seniors and just one junior (Kenslie Simpson).

1. Handley

Record: 13-7

County tournament titles: 16

Last tournament won: 2019

Analysis: The 4-time defending county champions are fast, athletic and relentless when it comes to full court defensive pressure. If you don't have a savvy and skilled ball-handler against Handley, you're going to be in for a long night. They also have probably the best post player in the tournament in junior Grace Rittenhouse. And Handley is in a very similar boat as Woodland as far as the makeup of its roster, as no seniors currently dress out for the Lady Tigers. It's a team that is built to last, and it will be tough to knock off for any of the other county teams.


4. Woodland

Record: 3-9

County tournament titles: 2

Last tournament won: 1984

Analysis: Woodland is likely riding high into Friday's first-round game against Wadley. That's because the Bobcast stunned the Bulldogs 41-38 in the teams' meeting in Woodland on Monday. The record doesn't show it, but Woodland is a different basketball team this year under first-year head coach Justin Decker. The 'Cats rallied from 10 points down at the start of the fourth quarter against Wadley and rode a red-hot quarter from big man Jacob Champion to the comeback win. Champion and guard Brock Edwards form a solid inside-outside scoring combo, and Jackson Lovvorn can also hit from outside if he gets an open look. This will be the most competitive Woodland team in the tournament in several years, and Wadley now knows it will need to bring its best effort to survive round one.


Record: 7-7

County tournament titles: 20

Last tournament won: 2006

Analysis: The name of the game this season for RCHS has been defense. In the seven games they've won this year they've allowed just under 31 points per game. That's an important statistic because the Tigers don't have a traditional go-to scorer that can get a basket at any given time. Their offense comes from players like Johnathan Prothro and Dante Jordan and Braxton Daniel and relies on execution to get those guys open looks. In that regard, a first-round matchup with Handley tonight is not ideal because Handley has the athleticism to make other teams create points against its defense.

2. Wadley

Record: 6-4

County tournament titles: 2

Last tournament won: 2007

Analysis: If you want to stump your friends this week at the county tournament ask them what was the last boys team, other than Handley, to win the county tournament. That would be the 2007 Wadley Bulldogs. This year's 'Dogs enter the tournament trying to break out of a mid-season funk. Wadley started the season 5-0, then lost its next four games, before bouncing back with a 55-44 win over Horseshoe Bend Tuesday. Senior guard Jonathan Poole scored his 1,000th career point in that game, and you know that he and fellow senior Elijah Beverly will be looking to right some wrongs from Monday's loss to Woodland when the two teams meet again Friday.

1. Handley

Record: 13-7

County tournament titles: 20

Last tournament won: 2019

Analysis: Handley is far and away the most skilled team in the county this year. Corey Bell is the reigning county player of the year and continues to be a very versatile scorer in Handley's offense. Juniors Graham Martin and Dylan Brooks have a combination of size and athleticism no on else in the county can match with one single player. Handley is like a river nearing flood stage. They're fast, deep and ready to sweep away anything that gets in their path this weekend.

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