The Hayesville boys basketball team is used to coming into the season with high expectations. With coach Michael Cottrell at helm, Hayesville’s is always competing for conference championships it seems. Coming off three straight conference championships and an undefeated season last year. The Hayesville Yellow Jackets are expected to not only win conference again this year but take a step beyond it. You may ask what is that next step? Simply put it is a state championship, and the Yellow Jackets are not shying away from those expectations. Just ask their star Kolbe Ashe, we have covered both his commitment and signing this fall. In both of those interviews he has made it very clear that leading this team to a state championship is the goal.
Last Year’s Team:
The Hayesville Yellow Jackets went 14-0 in the regular season last year winning the conference championship outright for the third straight year. Coming into the year they lost several transfers for Covid reasons and many expected them to take a step back. Those that thought that were dead wrong, all it did was give Kolbe Ashe a chance to take his game to the next level. He was surrounded by a solid 7-man senior class that will be missed. Especially Blake McClure and Brady Shook, who were starters as well as high level contributors. Also gone from last year’s team are Paul White, Eli Roberts, Jose Espinal, Tyler Jones, and Rudy Seaker.
This Year’s Team:
The team does bring back four players from last year’s team, Kolbe Ashe, the returning conference player of the year. Along with returning starter Kyle Lunsford, and part-time starter/big minute guys from last year Logan Caldwell and Asher Brown. A big storyline from the offseason was also the return of Jake Mctaggart, who is back after one year at Towns County. That one year away was a good one for Mctaggart as he won a state championship there and was the playoff MVP. That experience could be very valuable for a team who is looking to make a big run of their own this year. As well, several players will be moving up from last year’s JV team that could end up providing important minutes. Last but not least the Yellow Jackets also got a transfer player who moved in, Ethan Hooper. Hooper has looked great in the preseason and could end up playing a big role once he acclimates to the team.
Last year’s standings went in order – 1. Hayesville (12-0) 2. Murphy (8-4) 3. Swain (7-5) 4. Robbinsville (6-6) 4. Cherokee (6-6) 6. Andrews (3-9) 7. Rosman (0-12)
With Rosman no longer in the conference, the Big Smoky Mtn conference is now made up of 6 teams. Hayesville is the obvious favorite to win it again, but the rest of the conference could be a total toss up. Robbinsville and Swain both return a ton of players and could challenge Hayesville on any given night. Then you never know what players Cherokee may have brought in. Andrews and Murphy both have a lot of good athletes and could upset any team on the right night.
-Open the season at home Nov 22nd hosting the Blue Ridge Bobcats. (game live on fyntv.com)
-Away at Tallulah Falls on Dec 3rd and home against Tallulah Falls January 22nd (live on fyntv.com)
-Home against Swain December 21st (live on fyntv.com) and away at Swain February 1st.
-Christmas tournament at Swain Co. December 28th, 29th, and 30th open the tournament against Mtn Heritage on December 28th.
-Away at Robbinsville on January 7th and home against Robbinsville on February 8th (last home game of season, will be live on fyntv.com)
-Home against Franklin on January 14th (live on fyntv.com).
-Conference tournament at Swain February 10th through the 18th
Full Schedule can be found at:
Preseason interview with coach:
Expectations & Goals:
It has already been stated that the goals are pretty clear, first win conference then make a run at a state championship. Hayesville’s team is very rare being that they have the conference’s last two players of the year. Both seniors this year Jake Mctaggart won it when they were sophomores and Kolbe Ashe won it last year as a Junior. They will be as good as a 1-2 punch this conference has ever seen. They are also surrounded by a great cast of characters who can be lethal shooting the three and play great defense. Also expect Kyle Lunsford to have a breakout year as the other post player. With Mctaggart drawing lots of attention, Lunsford will often find himself in great matchups against other teams’ 2nd big man. All in All this season has all the makings to be a special one. Could the Yellow Jackets be only the second men’s team to win a state championship from the Smoky Mtn Conference? Well Coach Cottrells 2001 Hayesville team was the first, and he will have this Hayesville team primed to make another run at it.