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Franklin Free Press 2017-18 All-County Boys Basketball Team

Last week we announced our All-County basketball selections for the girls, so now it’s time to unveil our choices on the boys side. Let’s get right to it.

Player of the Year

Mason Bragwell, junior post player, Belgreen

In a battle of highly skilled, inside-outside big men, Bragwell edges out Red Bay junior Gath Weatherford for his first POY honor. The 6’6 Bragwell averaged a career-high and county-best 18.4 points per game, reaching double-figures in every game but two and topping the 20-point mark a dozen times—including a stretch of six straight games from December 11-19 during which he averaged 23.8 points.

Bragwell possesses a potent mid-range jumper, and his smooth stroke poses a threat from even further out [he hit 13 threes this season]. He’s most effective, though, around the basket, where his length, athleticism and ability to finish with both power and creativity make him hard to handle. Despite frequently facing double-teams and defenses otherwise designed to limit his touches on the block, Bragwell still shot 52 percent from the floor on the season [he went 9-for-10 and scored 22 points in a 64-63 win over Carbon Hill on December 11.]

Bragwell excels at getting to the foul line, where he recovered from a slow start this season to shoot 68 percent on a county-high 216 attempts. He also led Belgreen in rebounds with 7.9 per game and in blocks with 48, adding 36 assists and 35 steals for good measure. He dominated a big Marion County front line in sub-regional play, scoring a season-high 30 points, grabbing seven boards and swatting five shots in an 82-46 rout that punched the Bulldogs ticket to Hanceville for a second straight season.

With 1,297 career points at the varsity level, Bragwell has an outside shot [no pun intended] at reaching the 2,000-point mark next year as a senior. Graduation will hit Belgreen hard in May, so the big man will have to carry an even heavier load in 2018-19. He’ll undoubtedly be up to the task.

First-Team All-County

Gath Weatherford, junior post player, Red Bay

After averaging a solid 9.0 points per game as a sophomore, Weatherford spearheaded Red Bay’s remarkable renaissance this year with a monster season. The 6’3 junior shed 30 pounds last summer and became a multi-dimensional force on offense, adding a dribble-drive element to an arsenal that already included a physical low-post game and a pure perimeter stroke.

Weatherford topped the 20-point mark 11 times this season, most notably on December 28 when he scored a career-high 27 to engineer a 61-60 upset of Russellville at the Bracy Invitational. He averaged 16.5 points per game (third-best in Franklin County) and was remarkably efficient, shooting 53 percent from two-point range, 40 percent from beyond the arc and 79 percent (115-for-146) from the foul line.

Weatherford was the definition of an inside-out threat, finishing second in the county with 57 threes made and also leading Red Bay in rebounding at 7.4 per game. He was an underrated playmaker, too, handing out 40 assists, and a hard-nosed defender, recording 29 steals and taking a team-high 11 charges.

Weatherford adjusted quickly to the bright lights and high stakes of postseason basketball, hitting four threes in the area final against Sulligent, scoring 23 points in a sub-regional win at Tarrant that sent the Tigers to Hanceville for the first time in 23 years, and recovering from a slow start to pour in 18 second-half points in a 62-58 loss to Mars Hill in the regional semifinals.

It seems that the best may be yet to come—for both Weatherford and his fast-rising team.

Peyton Thomas, senior forward, Phil Campbell

A talented multi-sport athlete [he quarterbacked the Bobcat football team and has signed an offer to play baseball at UNA], Thomas was fully healthy—for a change—for the start of basketball season this past November. The result was a career year in which the versatile 6’1 forward averaged 17.0 points per game, second-most in Franklin County.

Thomas, a gifted passer and selfless playmaker who draws more than his share of attention from opposing defenses, spent much of the early part of the season in share-the-ball, spread-the-wealth mode. He shifted gears around the New Year and started piling up the points, averaging 20.9 per game in January. He opened the month with four straight outings of 20-plus points, including 24 in a 70-64 victory over rival Hackleburg and 22 in a surprising 61-58 win at Belgreen.

Thomas’s value to Phil Campbell was most evident in his absence; he missed a January 30 game at Bear Creek with the flu, and the Bobcats lost 50-49 to a Phillips team they had previously beaten by 27 points. A selective—yet capable—perimeter shooter [he made 16 threes on the season], Thomas did his best work in the paint, where his strong frame and soft touch around the basket made him darn near impossible to stop.

A consistent scorer, Thomas reached double-figures 21 times in his 22 games and topped the 20-point mark nine times while shooting a solid 64 percent (65-for-101) from the foul line. He finished his time at Phil Campbell as the county’s active career scoring leader with 1,345 points at the varsity level.

Lucas McNutt, junior guard, Russellville

McNutt’s strong finish to the season as a sophomore in 2016-17 [when he averaged 10.4 points per game after January 1 and became Russellville’s top three-point threat] proved to be a sign of things to come. The 6’1 sharpshooter opened his junior season with 27 points in a road win at Colbert County and went on top the 20-point mark six more times before the season was done, including January 2 when he poured in a career-high 29 in a loss to Hamilton.

Primarily a spot-up shooter in his first two varsity seasons, McNutt flourished with the ball in his hands more as a junior and developed into a productive all-around scorer and playmaker, leading the Golden Tigers in both points (15.8 per game) and assists (3.4 per game). He was as lethal as ever from beyond the arc, ranking third in the county with 49 threes made, and he was money from the foul line, where he connected on 26 straight attempts at one point and finished the season shooting a county-best 81 percent (69-for-85).

McNutt was also a sneaky-good defender, picking his spots to hang back after a made basket and steal an inbounds pass from an unsuspecting opponent. He was a solid rebounder, too, averaging 4.1 boards per game. With young point guard Will Bonner poised to take the reins next year, look for McNutt to spend less time handling the ball and more time filling the cup in his final prep season.

Devin Buckhalter, junior guard, Russellville

After surviving an early-season injury scare at Hamilton, Buckhalter—who missed his entire junior football season with a broken bone in his foot—wound up playing in all 24 games for the Golden Tigers. He reached double-figures in scoring in 22 of them and topped the 20-point mark six times, including January 22 at Central when he hit five threes and scored a career-high 29.

Buckhalter, an explosive athlete who excels at stopping on a dime and knocking down pull-up jumpers from the mid-range area, upped his scoring average from 13.0 points per game the previous year as a sophomore to a career-high 15.7 per game this year as a junior. His 41 threes made were fourth-most in Franklin County, and he also averaged 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

With 857 career points at the varsity level, Buckhalter is in position to fly past the 1,000-point mark next year as a senior.

Second-Team All-County

Jacob Mayberry, senior guard, Belgreen

Mayberry ran the show the past two seasons for Bulldog teams that went 47-15 while winning two county titles, two area championships and making it to Hanceville twice. As a senior, the 6’0 point guard averaged a career-high 10.4 points and posted an excellent ratio of 110 assists (a team-best 3.7 per game) to just 78 turnovers. He also led Belgreen with 74 steals, an average of 2.5 per game.

Mayberry chipped in on the glass, averaging 3.7 rebounds per game, and shot a solid 45 percent from the floor, doing the vast majority of his damage on mid-range jumpers and drives to the basket (where he was equally adept at finishing with either hand). He reached double-figures in scoring 17 times in 31 games, topping the 20-point mark twice and helping the Bulldogs finish 25-6.

Clay Allison, sophomore guard, Red Bay

Allison’s contributions on both ends of the floor were a driving force behind Red Bay’s turnaround from a 2-24 record the previous year to 18-13 this season. The super-quick point guard, a transfer from Vina, led the Tigers with 68 assists (2.4 per game) while also ranking second on the team in scoring (9.1 points per game) and three-pointers made (37). He also set a disruptive tone on defense, finishing first on the team with 53 steals and 48 deflections.

Allison rose to the occasion on the most pivotal night of the season, knocking down four threes and scoring 20 points to spark a 57-48 win over Lamar County in the first round of the area tournament on February 6. Nine days later he had 13 points and three assists in a regional semifinal loss to Mars Hill, the Tigers’ first trip to Hanceville since 1995.

Allison finished the season shooting a solid 44 percent from the floor, including 51 percent from two-point range and 37 percent from beyond the arc.

Brant Bragwell, junior guard, Belgreen

Bragwell battled through a nagging knee problem that sidelined him for eight games in January, but he still finished the season second on the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game and first with 34 threes made. More than just a knockdown shooter, the 5’9 guard is a skilled playmaker [he ranked second on the team with 62 assists, against only 35 turnovers], a willing defender [he was third with 52 steals] and a capable rebounder [he averaged 3.2 boards per game].

Bragwell reached double-figures in scoring 14 times in his 23 games and topped the 20-point mark twice, scoring a season-high 23 in a 90-43 win at Vina on December 8. He finished the year shooting a solid 68 percent (53-for-78) from the foul line.

Cole Daniel, senior forward, Tharptown

Slightly undersized for a post player, the 6’1 Daniel more than made up for his lack of height with tireless effort around the basket. He nearly doubled his scoring average from 7.4 points per game as a varsity rookie in 2016-17 to a team-best 13.0 per game this season. He was as consistent as they come, reaching double-figures in 22 of 28 games and topping the 20-point mark three times—including December 11 against Cherokee when he scored a career-high 24 points in a 53-44 win.

Daniel’s three-point production dipped this year, but he increased his efficiency from 12 feet in, pounded the offensive glass and also got to the foul line a ton [his 183 attempts were the second-most in Franklin County].

Joe Hardy, senior guard, Phil Campbell

Hardy battled back from an early-season knee injury to average a solid 9.1 points per game (second-best on the team), but his impact can’t be fully measured by individual numbers. Consider that the Bobcats were 8-7 with their emotional and tactical leader in the lineup and just 1-7 without him.

Despite missing those eight games, Hardy still finished second on the team with 21 threes made—including a clutch corner trey in the final minute to beat county rival Belgreen 61-58 on January 11. That came just two days after Hardy scored a career-high 21 points in a win over Hackleburg and one week after he flirted with a triple-double (10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, plus five steals) in a rout of Phillips in his first game back from injury.

Head coach Brett Thomas said that Hardy’s return to the lineup also made Phil Campbell a much more sound and versatile team on the defensive end.

Coach of the Year

John Torisky, Red Bay

Clint Isbell deserves a ton of credit for guiding Belgreen to 25 wins (including three tight ones over Red Bay), but Torisky gets the nod after overseeing an incredible turnaround by the Tigers.

Coming off a 2-24 record in Torisky’s second season, Red Bay served notice early that things were going to be much different this year. The Tigers went into Belgreen on November 17 and threatened to spoil the Bulldogs’ season opener, building a double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter. Belgreen rallied late to steal a 56-53 win, but the dye had been cast—Red Bay was for real.

The Tigers took on all comers in the ensuing weeks, notching impressive wins over Class 4A area champion Central (twice), another solid 4A team in Hamilton and even Class 5A Russellville in a thrilling consolation game at the Bracy Invitational after Christmas. Red Bay split the regular-season area championship with Sulligent, then nearly knocked off the Blue Devils on their home floor in the area tournament title game.

Forced to go on the road in sub-regional play, the Tigers routed Tarrant 60-37 to clinch their first regional berth in 23 years. They fell 62-58 to Mars Hill in Hanceville, but not before torching the Panthers for 45 second-half points and trimming a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit down to two in the final minute.

Red Bay finished 18-13 on the season, a 16-win improvement over the previous year. Torisky got maximum effort from his players—particularly on the defensive end, where the Tigers held teams to just 50.3 points per game—every night and successfully integrated a new point guard (Vina transfer Clay Allison) into an offensive system built on the inside-out versatility of 6’3 junior Gath Weatherford.

The Tigers accomplished all that without a single senior on the roster, positioning them to perhaps finally get over the hump and topple Belgreen as kings of the county next season.

Most Improved Player

Eli Hiser, senior guard, Belgreen

Hiser, who averaged 3.4 points per game as part of the Bulldogs’ deep bench brigade in 2016-17, took on a much more prominent role as a senior and flourished. His breakout game came in mid-December against Carbon Hill, when he scored 16 of his career-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to deliver a 64-63 win.

Hiser’s other highlights included a 17-point, eight-rebound effort in a double-overtime win over Red Bay in the county finals, the first of five straight games in which he scored in double-figures. The 6’1 guard finished the season averaging 7.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while ranking among team leaders in assists (57) and steals (51). He was highly efficient as well, knocking down 26 threes at a team-best 35-percent clip while shooting 49 percent from the floor overall and 74 percent (31-for-42) from the foul line.

Newcomers of the Year

Chandler Dyas, freshman guard, Russellville

The sweet-shooting Dyas made an immediate impact in his first varsity season, knocking down 31 threes and averaging 8.0 points per game—both third-best on the team. Dyas set season-highs with four threes made and 17 points in a mid-December game against Deshler, and he reached double-figures in scoring 10 times in 24 games.

The 6’1 freshman, primarily a perimeter player on offense, used his size and length to be an effective rebounder, pulling down 5.7 boards a game. He was also excellent from the foul line, where he shot 78 percent (28-for-36).

Dyas heads up a talented group of young players (also including fellow freshman Brooks Scott, a post player, and eighth-grade point guard Will Bonner) who should help the Golden Tigers bounce back from a disappointing season in short order.

Braden Ray, freshman forward, Red Bay

The highly skilled, highly versatile Ray played a key role in Red Bay’s reversal of fortune this year. The 6’2 freshman made his mark three days after Christmas, going 11-for-12 from the line and scoring 16 points to help lead a 61-60 win over Russellville at the Bracy Invitational. Three weeks later at the county tournament, Ray scored a career-high 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting in a 71-49 semifinal win over Tharptown, helping the Tigers survive a foul-plagued night from junior stud Gath Weatherford.

For the season, Ray averaged 9.0 points per game on 46 percent shooting from the floor (including 53 percent from two-point range and a solid 36 percent from beyond the arc). He knocked down 22 threes and hit free throws at a 71-percent clip while ranking second on the team to Weatherford in both makes (68) and attempts (96). Ray was second on the team in rebounding at 5.0 per game and also made a big impact defensively, finishing the season with 34 steals and a team-high 22 blocks.


Many of the players mentioned above as All-County selections made their mark on the defensive end. So did these guys.

Payton Scott, senior forward, Belgreen

Scott reprised his role as Belgreen’s energy guy on the press, finishing the season with 46 steals and creating all sorts of havoc. He also pulled down 4.0 rebounds per game and had a career-best year offensively, averaging 6.1 points per game and finishing with more than twice as many assists (52) as turnovers (24).

Colton Corum, junior guard, Red Bay

Corum can get hot from the perimeter [he made 33 threes and averaged a solid 6.6 points per game], but his selfless, hard-nosed style on defense was critical to Red Bay’s identity. Always willing to plant his body in front of a driving defender and take a charge, Corum also finished the season with 27 steals and 39 deflections while averaging 3.7 rebounds per game. Offensively, he ranked second on the team with 65 assists.

Seth Taylor, senior guard, Belgreen

Taylor put his active hands and sharp instincts to good use, finishing second on the team with 54 steals this season. In addition to his steady work on the defensive end, Taylor also enjoyed a career year offensively, knocking down 31 threes and averaging 7.5 points per game while handing out 55 assists and shooting 71 percent (39-for-55) from the foul line.

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