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TALKIN' COUNTY TOURNAMENT: Fasten those seat belts -- annual hoops showdown awaits

Jan. 18—In just a few days' time, the Cullman County Basketball Tournament will begin at Tom Drake Coliseum.

And whether it's your first rodeo, 12th (hi, that's me) or 30th, the annual hoops showdown is much like a fresh chicken tenders basket — it never fails to deliver.

So brave these fluctuating temperatures and come out to Wallace State to support your school, watch some quality basketball and enjoy what will likely be another memorable get-together.

Until then, though, let's talk about what lies ahead.

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VARSITY BOYS

Good Hope enters as the No. 1 seed in search of its fourth title in six years.

The rest of the competition, however, will no doubt have something to say about that.

West Point's lone county loss came against the Raiders, while Hanceville, Vinemont and Fairview — which handed Good Hope its lone county loss — are all capable of making noise. And let's not forget about Holly Pond or Cold Springs, both of which could surprise some folks.

While I do think Good Hope is the team to beat, it's certainly no slam dunk. In fact, I'll call my shot and predict we'll see an upset or two in this division.

Will I hit a home run on that prognostication or ground into a 6-4-3 double play?

Only time will tell.

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VARSITY GIRLS

I think we all know what's probably going to happen here.

Two-time defending champion Good Hope is the overwhelming favorite, having not fallen to a county opponent in almost three years. In six tilts against said competition this season, the Raiders' average margin of victory has been an impressive 38.5 points.

If this squad was a golfer from the past, it'd be 2000 Tiger Woods.

But we play the games for a reason and two teams — Cold Springs and West Point — could provide a challenge to the Raiders.

The Eagles are 19-3 and were missing some key contributors in their first bout with Good Hope, while the Warriors have won 11 straight and 14 of 15 en route to an 17-3 record — their lone loss during that stretch coming to the Raiders, a game in which they led in the third quarter.

Having said all that, though, I can't help but hear the sound of inevitability ($1 to Agent Smith).

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PLAYERS TO WATCH

One thing I can always count on — besides starting Championship Saturday at 2:30 p.m. — is that we will never be without talented basketball players in this county.

And without them, this tournament would certainly not have provided the highlights it has over the years.

Cold Springs (Cole Bales), Fairview (Kobe Payne and Blake Rickard), Good Hope (Kmal Bell, Tyler Cone and Tucker Malin), Hanceville (Noah Jones), Holly Pond (Kollin Brown), Vinemont (Isaiah Jones) and West Point (Jay Lamar and Kolten Perry) are just some of the playmakers we'll see this coming week.

Cold Springs (Maci Brown, Ella Bruer and Ella Dickerson), Fairview (Darby Nichols), Good Hope (Ivey Maddox, Ava McSwain, Bailey Tetro and Heather Tetro), Hanceville (Aaliyah Twitty), Holly Pond (Ava Thomas), Vinemont (Whitney Quick and Reagan Robinson) and West Point (Liberty Shadix, Hallie Wheeler and Jaelyn Faulkner) can all score the basketball as well.

That's certainly not the full list, but it's a good start.

And like always, I'm sure we'll have an unsung hero or two show up for their team in crunch time.

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PREDICTIONS

Varsity Boys

First Round: Fairview over Vinemont; Holly Pond over Hanceville; West Point over Cold Springs

Semifinals: Good Hope over Fairview; West Point over Holly Pond

Championship: Good Hope over West Point

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Varsity Girls

First Round: Vinemont over Holly Pond; West Point over Fairview; Cold Springs over Hanceville

Semifinals: Good Hope over Vinemont: West Point over Cold Springs

Championship: Good Hope over West Point

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Junior Varsity Boys

Championship: West Point over Fairview

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Junior Varsity Girls

Championship: Good Hope over West Point