Preseason Smoky Mountain Conference Basketball Rankings + Player WatchlistTeam FYN Sports November 28, 2022
Photo courtesy of BT Douthit
The 2022-2023 basketball season is a blank canvas as of now for our Smoky Mountain Conference athletes. Football has officially ended for all of our teams, and it is now time to take a look a look at who will have their prints all over the canvas that is the basketball world by the season’s end. This article will give you a quick peek at the preseason standings in both the men’s and women’s sides of the SMC, while also shining a light on what individual players you should watch out for the next time you’re in the gym.
Boys Preseason Player of The Year
Brock Adams, Senior, Robbinsville
Adams has proven that he is one of the top basketball players in the conference over his previous three years on the court. This year, he has the opportunity to separate himself from the rest of the pack as the leader of a Black Knight team that should have an opportunity to bring home its first SMC crown since 2014. Adams is a shifty guard who can create space outside and finish with the big boys down low when he needs to, and those two attributes should allow him to put up points on against any team he faces this season.
Girls Preseason Player of The Year
Desta Trammell, Senior, Robbinsville
Desta has been a pertinent part of the run the Lady Knights have been on over the previous few years. Coming off of a Junior season in which she averaged 20 points, 5 boards, and 5 assists- #4 should blow those numbers out of the water in her senior campaign. With the only other Lady Knight averaging double figures in points per game last season lost to graduation, Trammell will be leaned on offensively even more so than in previous seasons. The way things look right now, the SMC crown is sitting there waiting for Desta and the Lady Knights to come and take it.
Boys Preseason Rankings
Boys basketball in the Smoky Mountain Conference this year is going to be incredible to watch. There will be so much fluidity within the Conference this year that no team will be able to take a day off, no matter who they’re playing. I think that 4 of the 6 teams in the SMC have a real chance at winning a conference title this year, and if the other 2 can mature on the court quickly, then it could be anybody’s crown. The 2022-2023 season is shaping up to be the best basketball season this conference has seen in a long time.
There’s a new number one on top of the rankings for the first time in a long time. Senior-laden Robbinsville takes the top spot with four out of five starters returning from last year’s squad. Preseason Player of The Year Brock Adams along with brother Bryce Adams, Xander Wachacha, and eventually a healthy Donovan Carpenter headline the five starters for a Black Knight team poised to make a run at their first Conference Championship in 8 years.
Having lost two of the best players in North Carolina in Kolbe Ashe and Jake McTaggart, it’s normal to think we should see some regression from the defending state champion Hayesville Yellow Jackets. Good players come and go, but the one constant that remains year in and year out is Michael Cottrell, and that’s why the Yellow Jackets will still find themselves fighting for the top spot in the SMC. Despite losing 50 percent of their scoring output from last year, they return 10 of the 12 players that made up last year’s 28-0 team. Logan Caldwell, Ethan Hooper, Taylor McClure, Kyle Lunsford, and Asher Brown are the biggest returning contributors from 2022.
The Murphy boys basketball program is headed in the right direction. Zack Skogen, Dom Rummler, and Dillian Brown headline a roster that returns all but 1 contributor from last year’s team. The thing that will set this team apart from the recent Bulldog teams is their depth. Along with the three guys previously mentioned, Cole Laney, Ty Laney, Will Carringer, and Dozer Mashburn are guys that can give you valuable minutes. The biggest question mark around this team is, Has Zack Skogen taken the next step? If he has, then this could be a dangerous team come February, but I still think we’re a year away from seeing the Black and Gold at their best.
The Red and Black are returning everyone from last year’s 12 and 13 season, including freak athlete Isaac Weaver and young gun Kegan Ellis. This is going to be a much-improved team due to experience alone, but I look for them to drop a couple of games out of the gate due to their football team’s deep run in the NCHSAA State Playoffs (& I’m sure they’re just fine with that).
From looking at old rosters, it seems the Maroon Devils lost 10 players to graduation off of last years 18 win team. While they do return Senior Nathan Bogdanowicz, this is going to be a very young basketball team. They’ll have some good contributors moving up off of last years JV Championship winning team, but the inexperience is the reason for their fifth place ranking.
Men’s sports at Cherokee High School have taken a step back as a whole without Donald Bradley as a part of their programs. The football team struggled to find their identity this season and I think the same will be said about their basketball team. However, I do look for Tso Smith and youngster Jack Teesateskie to provide some highlight reel plays for the Braves.
Girls Preseason Rankings
The Lady Knights should be in for another great season among the top of the SMC. They will have one fairly larger hole to fill down low with the absence of Yeika Jiminez, but if they’re able to plug and play that position then they may be in for a run-the-table type of season. Desta Trammell is undoubtedly the best player in the conference and with the way Zoie Shuler was coming into her own last season, the Knights should be able to run teams to death. Add in the spot up shooting of Kensley Phillips, and the Lady Knights offensive fire power should be the stuff dreams are made of.
The upcoming 2022-2023 season for the Black and Gold is one big question mark. As if the departure of Torin Rogers wasn’t going to be hard enough for Murphy, add in having to replace your award winning coach and things look pretty grim. But, with new-old coach Gary Thompson at the helm, it will be interesting to see how the Dogs respond to this new style of play. They have the talent to compete at a very high level, and I think they will respond well to this new challenge. While Addie Johnson and Lochlan Rogers should be staples on the court, we’ll also probably see a heavy mix of Lailee Holloway and Julia Dockery.
Amaya Hicks, Mya Burrows-kurr, and Maddie Spates will look to lead the Lady Devils on the court this year. While Mazie Helpman will be hard to replace, the Maroon Devils should have enough returning players to have a successful season. It’s also worth noting that they were peaking at the right time as last season ended with an upset over Draughn and a 2 point loss to Uwharrie Charter in the playoffs, so if they can ride that momentum this team could prove tough to beat.
No Leilaya McMillan or Betty Lossiah could prove trouble for the Lady Braves this year. The whole offense ran through McMillan in 2022, so it will be interesting to see who the go-to girl is for the 2023 season.
While Hayesville lost their top scorer in Lila Payne to graduation last year, in 2022 the Jackets had some very young girls playing some valuable minutes on the court that should pay dividends in 2023. Lila Roberts should be the on-court captain for Hayesville in her senior season, but Brooke Graves and Madison Peck are also poised for breakout season if the Jackets can get rolling early.
While the Lady Cats may not finish at the top of the standings this season, this year should be a turning point for their program. A team that has won three games in three years, they have struggled to find their identity. But under new head coach Tim Wood, I think the times are a-changin’. This should be the most successful season for the Wildcats since 2018-2019 and Sophomore Kylie Donaldson will lead that charge. The lone senior on this team in Leah Preston will help compliment Donaldson with her outside shooting abilities, as well as Gracelyn Worley and Kinleigh Queen. I’m calling it now, these Lady Cats will win a game that they shouldn’t before the season is over.
Boys Preseason Watchlist
Jack Teesatestekie, Freshman, Cherokee
Tso Smith, Senior, Cherokee
Reese Winchester, Junior, Swain County
Nathan Bogdanowicz, Senior, Swain County
Zack Skogen, Junior, Murphy
Dillian Brown, Senior, Murphy
Ethan Hooper, Senior, Hayesville
Taylor McClure, Junior, Hayesville
Bryce Adams, Sophomore, Robbinsville
Don Carpenter, Junior, Robbinsville
Isaac Weaver, Senior, Andrews
Kegan Ellis, Sophomore, Andrews
Cam Rattler, Junior, Andrews
Girls Preseason Watchlist
Lochlan Rogers, Senior, Murphy
Addie Johnson, Sophomore, Murphy
Amaya Hicks, Senior, Swain County
Maddie Spates, Senior, Swain County
Kensley Phillips, Senior, Robbinsville
Zoie Shuler, Junior, Robbinsville
Lila Roberts, Senior, Hayesville
Mallory Peck, Sophomore, Hayesville
Kylie Donaldson, Sophomore, Andrews
Gracelyn Worley, Sophomore, Andrews
Ariyanna Hill, Senior, Cherokee
Hermione “loshi” Ward, Junior, Cherokee
Gutierrez Bids Farewell To Murphy High School, Says Moving Is Best Decision For His KidsTeamFYNSports June 29, 2022
Photo from Murphy High School Athletics
Murphy High School Athletic Director and Head Girls Basketball Coach, Ray Gutierrez, has announced that he will no longer be with the program next year. In an interview with TeamFYNSports, the decorated coach said that being at Murphy was his dream job and that Bulldog Country will always be home, but it was time to do what was best for his family.
“Our two boys [Banks and Brayden] had an opportunity that we thought would make them more well-rounded academically, athletically, and spiritually. We are moving in order to put our boys in the best situation we possibly can.”
Gutierrez has been a part of 7 State Championship winning teams in his five years as Athletic Director and was the Head Coach of 2 of those titles.
“I’m going to miss this place, the small town camaraderie and the history that surrounds this school. This town will always be home, and I know that one day I will end up back in Murphy, this is just a move that is best for my family at this point in time. I’m not taking sides or calling anyone out, I just feel like right now there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the county and with some of the decisions that are being made, it’s clear the emphasis is not being placed on education. As a man, and being the competitor that I am, winning has always been at the forefront of everything, and we’ve won a lot and accomplished a lot here. But as a dad, your priorities change and my priority right now is to do what is best for my boys’ future.”
In reminiscing about his first years here at Murphy High, Gutierrez said his goal was to come here and change the culture surrounding the basketball program.
“I always want to leave somewhere in a better position than where it was before I arrived. When I first came to Murphy High School five years ago, that basketball program was down a little bit and had been for a while. It seemed like the expectation when we got here was that we were automatically just going to be successful and win. I’m not sure if that expectation stemmed from the fact that we accomplished so much at Hiwassee Dam or what, but the pressure was on.”
“Ultimately we did turn things around and we were successful in that first year, but none of it could’ve happened, this run we’ve had and the titles we’ve won couldn’t have happened without the staff we had in Coach Cody Webb and Jordan Lovinggood and Coach Holloway, and the athletes on that first team. When we first got here, the kids didn’t even think they deserved to be on the same court as Cherokee. By the end of that season, we beat them twice. The first group of girls laid the groundwork for what we’ve built here. Everything that we’ve done should be credited to the kids. I’ve been honored to coach some of the best girls basketball players in the state, and in doing so we’ve won more games than any team in the state. These kids have really made me look good.“
Since Gutierrez took over as the girls Head Coach for the 2016-2017 season, the Lady Bulldogs have a record of 154-17. In the previous season before Gutierrez took over, the Lady Bulldogs lost nearly as many games (15) in 1 season as they did in 6 seasons under his tutelage.
Coach Gutierrez expects the success in the girls basketball program to continue, going on to say, “You know we’ve lost a lot of talent over the years, lost some great players. We lost an outstanding player last year. But I am excited for this group of girls coming up. We’ve got some great girls coming back out and they have had a great summer. They should be right back up at the top again. These girls will continue to succeed on and off the court.”
When asked about his successor, Gutierrez said, “As far as what’s next for Murphy High School, I have no idea who is going to be the new Athletic Director or the new girls basketball coach. There are so many people here at Murphy High that are qualified–so many good people-coaches that I think would do a good job and with that being said I don’t feel like I can rightly recommend anybody. Our administrator Dr. Fletcher does such a good job in hiring people and putting them where they need to be, I have no doubt the right decision will be made.”
NCHSAA 1A Second Round Matchups SetSports, Team FYN Sports February 22, 2022
Photo courtesy of BT Douthit
Smoky Mountain Conference- Our SMC teams faired pretty well in the opening round of the NCHSAA State Playoffs. On the boys side of things- Hayesville, Swain, and Robbinsville are moving on to round two, and on the girls side- Murphy, Robbinsville, Cherokee and Swain all advanced to the next round.
No surprise here, the #1 overall seed took care of business at home vs Starmount with a 85-49 win. Up next for the Yellow Jackets will be #17 Corvian Community. Corvian finished the season 20-9 overall and second in their conference behind Carolina International.
The Maroon Devils are moving on to round 2 on Thursday after a 100-78 blowout over Cherryville. Swain will be on the road for their next matchup at Thomasville. Thomasville is the #4 seed and finished their regular season 20-5. They did struggle a bit with their opening round matchup with Allghany (67-56 win), so we will see what happens Thursday.
The Black Knights got the luck of the draw and didn’t have much traveling to do in round one, as they went to Hiwassee Dam and pulled off the “upset” over the #8 seeded Eagles. Robbinsville will be back on the road on Thursday, headed to Concord to face the Carolina International Comets who are the #9 seed in the tournament.
The Wildcats had to travel to Mount Airy Tuesday night, and were unable to pull off the upset. The #11 seed Mount Airy Granite Bears defeated #22 Andrews by a score of 69-49.
While the Lady Braves are moving on, the boys team is headed home after a 66-50 loss to the #5 seed South Stokes.
The Bulldogs were on the verge of pulling off an upset over #12 seed Bishop McGuinness, as they held a lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Villians were able to starve off the upset bid however, and will be headed to the second round after a 65-55 victory over the Bulldogs.
The Lady Braves narrowly escaped the first round with a 65-62 win over Eastern Randolph. Things won’t get any easier for Cherokee, as the travel to #2 seed Mountain Heritage on Thursday for their second round bout.
The Lady Devils pulled off a #19 over #14 seed upset, defeating Draughn 66-60. This was a game all of the SMC girls teams had their eye on, as Draughn has gone toe to toe with #2 seed Mountain Heritage a couple times this year, and even came away with a win over the second ranked team a couple weeks ago. Round 2 will send Swain on the road to #3 seed Uwharrie Charter on Thursday.
#1 vs #32 went just about how you’d expect it, as Murphy trampled Elkin 72-21. Murphy will face a familiar foe in Mitchell at home on Thursday for round 2.
Robbinsville dominated Thomas Jefferson in round 1, and will now travel to #4 seed North Rowan for round 2 action.
The Lady Yellow Jackets were bounced by #5 seed North Rowan on the road in round 1, falling 59-14.
Lady Bulldogs Repeat as State Champs, Complete Dominant Playoff RunSports, Team FYN Sports, TeamFYNSports March 6, 2021
Trinity, NC- The Murphy Lady Bulldogs faced the Princeton High School Lady Bulldogs in the NCHSAA 1A State Championship at Wheatmore High School in Trinity, North Carolina.
The Bulldogs topped off their DOMINANT playoff run with a 76-35 win over Princeton.
This was the fourth State Championship in school history and although they did not finish the season undefeated, it was perhaps the most impressive season in the history of the program. They were on the road for every playoff game, defeated the #1, #2, and #3 ranked schools in the state, all while outscoring playoff opponents by 132 points (336-204).
Murphy came into the game and left no doubt from start to finish who the best team in the state was. They had a chip on their shoulder after not being able to play in last years State Championship game, which was cancelled thanks to the COVID-19 protocols.
They found themselves down 5-0 early in the First, but that would be the only time they trailed in the entire game after rattling off a 12-0 run and ending the quarter leading 19-14.
The start of the Second quarter was all Kaiya Pickens. She knocked down three straight three pointers and accounted for 13 of the Dogs 26 points in the quarter. Torin Rogers capped off the second quarter with a deep buzzer beater three from the parking lot, allowing Murphy to take a 45-23 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The deep ball was falling early and often for Murphy, as they knocked down 8 threes in the first half.
In the Third quarter, Sarah Pullium ignited the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball as they held Princeton to 4 points in the entire quarter, and outscored them 24-4.
In the Fourth, some of the younger girls on this Murphy team gained some experience as Murphys starters sat for most of the quarter, and the Bulldogs ultimately came away with a 76-35 victory.
Murphy didn’t just dominate the game on the back of the three ball, they also outscored Princeton in the paint by double digits.
Torin Rogers led all scorers with 22 points. Sarah Pullium and Kaiya Pickens were right behind Rogers as Pullium tacked on 20 and Pickens 18. All three girls sat for most of the fourth quarter with the game already being out of reach.
This was the 128th Win for Head Coach and Athletic Director Ray Gutierrez during his tenure at Murphy.