The Cannon Courier
During the winter months this year, both Cannon County High School basketball teams had fans on the edge of their seats as they competed for a chance to win the state title. Of course, the Lionettes made their fourth state appearance in five years while the Lions fell short in the sectional from making state for the first time in 30 years. However, the Lions might break that streak sooner than later as the future stars of the program made their own history earlier this season.
The West Side School boys basketball team made history this season as the Eagles flew to a perfect 25-0 season, which ended with the program's first-ever state title. What made this team special is several things. First off, the previous season ended in heartbreaking fashion with a loss in the state title game. Usually, when this happens in sports at all levels either the losing team falls backwards as a one year wonder, or in this case for the Eagles, they used the offseason to get back to work hoping for a better result this time around.
Eagles head coach Roger Haley said what made this team special was the willingness to put in the extra work in the gym during the offseason usually three to four hours a day as motivation since they came so close to reaching the ultimate goal of becoming champions.
"Their work ethic is better than any team I have seen," Haley said. "We had to run them out of the gym. It is time to go. When you got kids that want to put that much work in their game, you are going to come out with success."
Another unique quality of the Eagles was Haley had no post presence instead he went with a five guard lineup led by five eighth graders, and a point guard, who was a sixth grader that was wise beyond his years thanks in part of being the son of a recent inductee to the Cannon Courier Hall of Fame.
The Eagles were led by MVP, Brandon Miles, who was the ultimate team player, and he did not let the individual success get to his head. Instead Miles, who is well-spoken for his age, gave all of the credit to his teammates. He was the type of player that coaches dream about somebody who is really good, but he does not care about individual stats. He just wants to make his teammates better and win basketball games.
"It was really fun this season, and cannot live off of those individual awards unless you have teammates to help you," Miles said. "I cannot get points without them passing me the ball, and they cannot get points without me passing them the ball. It is all about us working together as one."
The other key players included fellow eighth-graders, Matt Calamia, Marcus Cannon, Tyler Lance and Charlie Parrish, seventh-grader Wade Love and sixth grader Gus Davenport.
Davenport is another player, who is also wise beyond his age. Of course, he has learned from one of the best players to ever play for the Lions, his father Russell. Russell was a member of the last CCHS boys' basketball team to advance to state back 30 years ago. This year he was an assistant coach, and last week he was inducted into the Cannon Courier Hall of Fame. Gus was the one who made it official in a touching moment between father and son.
"Just give the love and passion for it," Davenport said. "If you want to be good, you got to stay in the gym and get better.
Coming into this season, the Eagles had six goals they wanted to accomplish, which included winning the five tournaments they were entered in including state and going undefeated against programs whose student count was two or three times bigger than the 230 students which make up Westside School.
Honestly, it was the middle school version of the classic sports movie, Hoosiers. They had it all, a brilliant coach, unselfish players, and community support which once again proved why this Cannon County has the best fan base in the state. These players were treated like rock stars around town and at school, but they were very humble. Instead of acting like the look at me we are the big man on campus attitude. The Eagles acted as mentors and role models to their fellow students, especially the younger ones since it is a K-8 school.
Overall, the Eagles showed the right way how to win a championship, and acting like one. It is something that is missing in sports today. I believe some of the athletes, who are much older and compete for a living either in high school, college or ever professionally could learn something from teams like Westside School.
Also, some of these players will hopefully be the ones to continue building the Lions program at CCHS. However, this season, these Eagles proved you can be the best, and act like true champions.