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Reigning champ in UC path

Reigning champ in UC path
Reigning champ in UC path
MURFREESBORO — Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.
So says first year head coach Caleb Marcum of defending Class 1A boys’ state champion Chattanooga Temple.
Marcum, whose team drew No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Union City in its first round state tournament game, insists few outside the immediate Crusader camp and following will give his 23-9 team much of a chance Wednesday morning against the Golden Tornadoes (34-0).
He says Temple has the best of intentions anyway.
“We will play to win,” the 26-year-old rookie Crusader skipper said following Saturday morning’s blind draw. “We really didn’t expect to be back here with just one starter returning from last year, but we’ll be ready to go come Wednesday.
“I know nobody wanted to draw Union City or Manassas. You have to play somebody right off the bat, though, and at least we have two or three days to prepare for them.”
Like UC — which has four boys’ state championship trophies in its case for such hardware — Temple has a decorated hoop history with three state titles (2002, ’03 and ’07) to its credit in the last six prep seasons.
Unlike the Tornadoes, however, who have seven seniors and a veteran-laden squad, the Crusaders list but one senior on this year’s roster and one player with any significant experience from last season’s single-A championship run.
Junior guard Jeremy Sexton is the headliner and just one of two double-figure scorers average-wise for Temple, which has won seven straight games coming into Wednesday.
The athletic 6-1 backcourt ace averages 22.5 ppg and leads the Crusaders in assists, steals and blocked shots, too.
He has been named both the district and regional most valuable player while averaging 26 points-per-game in the postseason.
“He’s our go-to guy, and he’s the one who got us here,” said Marcum of Sexton, who has led the Crusaders in scoring in 28 of their 32 games.
While maybe the best, Sexton is not Temple’s lone quality performer.
Backcourt mate James Kemp averages 12.6 points per-outing and has made a team-high 72 3-pointers to-date.
A third junior, 6-3 Jarrod Johnson, gives the Crusaders a solid post presence, averaging nine rebounds and 8.6 points-per-game.
Marcum had to make an adjustment in his team’s rotation just before Christmas when the club lost Brandon Andrews — the only other player to see much action on last year’s state title squad — to a season-ending shoulder injury.
Andrews had been averaging just a shade under 10 points and was considered Temple’s defensive stopper.
For his part, Union City head coach Shane Sisco expects the Crusaders to be a formidable first-round foe.
“We know Sexton’s a very good player. He’s athletic and can put the ball on the floor and either get to the basket or create his own shot,” the Tornado skipper claimed. “They have some quality role players, too, who know their roles and have been effective.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at mhutch@ucmessenger.com

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