By Tim Chambers
The COVID-19 virus put a halt to basketball being played in the state tournament but didn’t stop us from choosing our sixth annual All Carter/Johnson County basketball team for the 2019-20 seasons. There were several good players in the Northeast Tennessee area, but only one emerged as our player of the year.
Elizabethton’s Nico Ashley edged out Hampton’s Justin Bentley for player of the year honors. Ashley was the Cyclones go-to guy that wore a target on his back every game. The 6’2 forward provided them with several double-double performances and was usually the primary focus of who their opponent had to shut down to win. The Bulldogs were only one of two teams in this area to qualify for the state tournament, which allows them to head up the squad.
Hampton’s Blue Collar Working duo of Caleb Oaks and Matt Hughes joins Bentley on the squad. So does Unaka’s sharp-shooting guard Ryan Peters who went for 48 against Happy Valley in a road game earlier in the year. Cloudland rallied late in the year to finish strong due to the return of point guard Connor Birchfield who missed the early part of the year with a broken arm and guard Hunter Shell whose hustle and defensive play made the Landers go.
Elizabethton’s football standout Parker Hughes earned a spot on the team as did his teammate Jake “the Snake” Roberts. Hughes was like a wrecking crew on the inside leading the team in rebounding despite having to play against much taller players in the paint. And Roberts delivered many three-point daggers that allowed the Cyclones to win some huge games.
Johnson County is not without representation on the team. Seniors Michael Oxentine and Lucas Phillips round out the squad. Oxentine averaged a double-double for the Longhorns and who can forget the 40 point performance that Phillips recorded in a first-round District tournament win over Happy Valley.
Hampton’s Ned Smith was tabbed as Coach of the year. He bested Elizabethton’s Lucas Honneycutt for those honors.
All Johnson/Carter County Dandy Dozen Boys Basketball Team
Player of the Year:
Nico Ashley, Elizabethton
Coach of the Year:
Ned Smith, Hampton