LaVergne basketball enjoys Good, Better, Best season

Mar 16, 2024 at 11:01 am by Danny Brewer

Senior Xailan Lenoir was a key component for Wolverine basketball (photo by Jared Martin)

  The 2023-24 basketball season was historical for LaVergne high school (23-12). Culminating with the school’s first ever visit to the TSSAA state tournament, this campaign offered many highlights. We will break it down into “good”, “better”, and “best” categories for those scoring at home. Let us expound…


  Under the guidance of head coach Tony Rutland, the Wolverines enjoyed a “good” regular season. Playing in a talented district, LaVergne had moments of brilliance as they were dominant at times. Three wins in four games against local rivals Smyrna and Stewart’s Creek offered County bragging rights for the ‘Rines. A solid non-league schedule provided the tests Rutland wanted as he molded his clay into a work he hoped would be timely for the tournament. Progress throughout the regular season allowed for optimism as the post-season beckoned.


    Expectations had been created during the previous year as LaVergne saw a Sectional defeat close their campaign. This time around, they were hoping for a “better” run. After finishing second during the regular season to that basketball behemoth called Cookeville, the Wolverines again fell to the Cavaliers in the district title game. After throttling Rutherford County rival Oakland (70-48) in the first round of the Region tourney, fans were witness to one of the finest wins in Wolverine history. Under the expert eye of Tony Rutland, LaVergne defeated mid-state powerhouse Blackman in the Region semi-finals. Executing an old-school gameplan to perfection, the Wolverines were winners 32-24 in the most juiced low-scoring game in recent memory. A loss to nemesis Cookeville in the Region title tilt sent the Wolverines to Walker Valley for their second consecutive Sectional appearance. Playing with a passion, LaVergne went on the road with one thing on their mind. Finishing like a champion race horse, these Wolverines were 66-61 winners and Glass House bound.


  The concerns of any coach heading into the state tournament is how will his kids respond. Hopes are you will be at your “best” on this big stage. With more than a week off and plenty of outside noise, focus was at the forefront, especially considering this was the first ever appearance in Tennessee’s elite eight team tournament. Much to the credit of Rutland and his bunch, LaVergne came to play. Unfortunately for these ‘Rines, they ran into a buzzsaw named Independence. LaVergne may have lost 88-74, but there was no shame in the Wolverine game. Despite shooting 75% from the field and making all five three pointers in the first half, LaVergne trailed 47-35. The second half was virtually even as LaVergne played their hearts out. Senior Xialin Lenoir walked away with perhaps his finest performance as a Wolverine. Finishing with 22 points on 7 of 12 shooting while making 6 of 8 free throws with 6 assists, Lenoir left it all on the floor. Junior Landon Bryant tallied 15 points despite being the focus of the Independence defenders. Sophomore Steven Sherman tickled the twine to the tune of 27 points. Included in that game high total was six renditions of string music from downtown. More “best” news is the sky-walking Cam Samuel also returns next season from this starting line-up.

  To further encapsulate this campaign, five  of the marks in the loss column came to Cookeville (4) and Independence, the two teams that played for the Class 4A State championship.

  “I couldn’t be more proud of this group of young men”, says Rutland, after completing his fourth season at LaVergne. “I asked them to put it all on the line and they absolutely did. There has been lots of really good teams and players at LaVergne, but I told our kids they were the first to ever make it to the Glass House and nobody can ever take that away. I am so proud of our seniors Daunte White and Xialin Lenoir for how they lead us on and off the floor. At the same time, we are very excited about the future. This is about more than basketball. We are trying to establish a winning culture at LaVergne in the hallways as well as the athletic arena. We came into this season with the slogan “take the next step”.  Nest year we will come in with an ”unfinished business” mentality.”      



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