HV freshman team enjoys unbeaten season

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   It's not often you get to enjoy the fact of your school team being the best in the area, but it's even more difficult to prove so without having at least one blemish on your record.
   The Happy Valley boys freshman team did not only go through the entire season in establishing that they were the team to beat this year, but they also did it in fashion by earning a record of 14-0.
   "It was an outstanding season, and we had some games that we played well in spurts, but when it came down to it, they played well enough to win every game," said freshman coach Chuck Babb.
   In his fifth season of coaching, Babb said this year's team was his most pleasurable and enjoyable ballclub he's coached so far.
   "Honestly, the best part of this club was the fact that they're good kids," said Babb.
   Chuck talked about how his team did not just interact with each other on the court, but also when they were away from the game, which he thinks is a big asset.
   "They were a couple of games played before us to where I didn't say anything, and all the guys were sitting there watching the game hanging out together, and I'm big on that," said Babb.
   When Babb was in college, he said saw a big difference in how his team played, when everyone developed a close relationship and got along.
   One of the reasons to the success of the Warriors this season was by having a go to guy, and they're were several players who averaged double-digits.
   Ricky Morgan and Chris Rutledge both averaged 12 points apiece, and Drew Davis and Todd Caldwell, when playing averaged 10.
   Greg Swafford ran the point-guard position, and Babb said he was real pleased with the way he performed.
   "He did what I needed him to do, for he played great defense and took care of the ball, and you don't worry about him, for he's steady," said Babb.
   One of HV's strong points was its ability to shoot from the perimeter, which was vital to its perfection.
   "The perimeter was really our strength, and we had some scoring from the inside, but the offense was perimeter based, which I'm not really used to," said Babb.
   The Warriors averaged 58 points on the season and allowed just 42 points per game in their quest to the unbeaten mark, and defense was the difference in Babb's mind.
   "I changed the way I usually coach this season," Babb said. "Normally we don't press or trap a lot, but this bunch had such a knack and instinct on how to move to the ball."
   As far as the Warriors opinion on how they would fare throughout the year, their expectations was to win at least 13 out of their 16 matchups.
   "We set goals at the first of the season, and normally I don't usually ask how many games are we going to win, but I asked them after going down the schedule and they said about 13," said Babb.
   One of the Warriors' toughest competitors during the year was the Hilltoppers from Science Hill, which has repeatedly produced the area's best team.
   "We went all the way down the list of the schedule and the one game that stood out, and we thought we would really have a tough time winning was the Science Hill game," said Babb.
   Happy Valley made the trip to come away with a victory at the buzzer after trailing by as many as 21 points in the contest.
   "We traveled down to Science Hill and trailed by 21 in the first half then came back to win, and after that they knew they could win and had the confidence by beating traditionally the best in East Tennessee," said Babb.
   The Warriors went into every game with the attitude of just winning this one, instead of thinking about going undefeated, and the success speaks for itself.
   Not only was there a focus on the game of basketball, but also in the classroom, where 12 of the players were honor-roll students.
   "We had 12 out of 15 kids make the honor roll, and five of them were straight A students with two of them being starters," said Babb.
   Their work ethic was intense in either the classroom or the ball court, and the discipline of their behavior was also a key factor in not creating any distractions to their club.
   "They're a great group and work really hard, and there wasn't a single time where we had an incident on the bench or kids talking back," said Babb.
   Babb's talent on the coaching of the players has not really changed a whole lot from when he started, but the one thing he has learned is the relationship with various people.
   "I already knew coach Bayless system because I played for him, but how to deal with people has been the biggest adjustment for me, and I've went to some clinics in trying to pick up some here and there," said Babb.
   His communication with his players this season was at its peak, and Babb seems to credit this to their attitudes and desire they possess.
   "They really listened and tried to do everything that you would show them, and there was times we seen things that we just drew up, and these guys had enough savvy to do it, but the other teams I have had couldn't have done that," said Babb.
   Whether it was showing off their athletic abilities or their knowledge of the game and life, this year's Happy Valley freshman will be one remembered as a special group that is striving to be the best they can be.
   ""They've got potential and that's what I told them after their last victory of the season, and nobody's going to care what the record was last year, so don't sit around all summer and do nothing," said Babb.
   "The work ethic they have right now is outstanding, and if they continue in the off-season and next year to work like that, then we're going to become a tough team to deal with in our conference for the future."