Hayesville Boys Basketball Season Preview

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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.

Schedule Notes:

-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.

Hayesville Round 2 Playoff Preview

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The Hayesville Yellow Jackets will be hosting the Mountain Island Charter Raptors. The Yellow Jackets coming off a 70-65 first-round win will be looking to continue their playoff run. Mountain Island beat their first-round opponent handily, winning 72-46 over Chatham Charter. 


Once again we see Hayesville a traditional public school taking on a charter/prep/private type of school. What’s interesting to see is that on the west side of the playoff bracket there are eight teams left. Of those teams, there are four public and four charter/prep/private schools left. Even more interesting is the four-game matchups, each is a public school versus a charter/prep/private school. 


Hayesville opponent, Mountain Island Charter Raptors:

The Raptors are a very solid team, 13-2 on the year with their only losses coming at the hands of one team Pine Lake Prep. Coming second place in their conference got them into this year’s condensed playoffs. After upsetting their round one opponent as the road team they will look to do the same today. Mountain Island is led in scoring by a trio of seniors.

  • First is their 6’5” center #5 Marquis Williams leading the team with 17.9 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game.
  • The second is 6’4” small forward/wing #4 Najee Steward averaging 16.1 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game.
  • Third is 6’3” wing/forward  #15 Gabriel Stephens averaging 12.3 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game.

The strength of the Raptors is their ability to penetrate as well as hit the mid-range jumper. They are also great in transition when forcing turnovers. Oftentimes they will sit back in a 1/2 or 3/4 court press. They are good at taking away passing lanes defensively with their great length as a team. Also, they are very athletic and will look to go for steals as well as block shots.

Weaknesses for the Raptors would have to be their three-point shooting. They only average 2.5 made three per game and shoot only 25 percent from three. They also are not great as a team passing the ball, they like to attack off of isolation.

FYN sports reached out but were unable to secure any interviews with the Mountain Island Program. 

Interview with Hayesville Coach Michael Cottrell:

Q: Coach tell me a little bit about how you felt about how your first-round game went?

A: “I thought we played pretty solid the whole game and I was proud of the way they adjusted defensively. Especially dealing will all the post players they had, the first half the post hurt us really bad, and the second half it did not hurt us nearly as bad.

Q: What do you know about your 2nd round opponent Mountain Island Charter?

A: “They are a very good team, a second-round team which is really a third-round team in this year’s playoffs. They are a very athletic long team, they do some really good things. It is going to be a tough matchup for us totally different team than we saw Tuesday night.”

Q: How is a two-day turnaround going to affect your fatigue levels?

A: “Everybody is having to do this so I don’t think there is a major advantage, the advantage is we don’t have to travel. That does take a little bit out of you as we have learned the past few years. I am excited about the opportunity these guys have they are such a unique team. We are very balanced, they understand themselves and what they need to do. It is like I told my assistance coaches the hay is in the barn, you go with what you have and try to do your stuff a little bit better than you have throughout the year. You have to shoot the ball well and have to make adjustments in the game which this team does well right now.”

Q: What does your team need to do to advance tomorrow night?
A: “I think like all year long we are undersized so we have to rebound the basketball well enough to give ourselves a chance to win. When you have a bigger team like Mountain Island Charter coming in that’s always a concern. The second thing is we have to defend against penetration and they are a good transition team so we will have to a good job at stopping that.”

What to watch for/ keys to the game:

  • Hayesville has played multiple styles of defense throughout the year. This will aid them as they will need to stop dribble penetration as a key for the game. 
  • Hayesville also will need to take care of the ball in this game as the Raptors thrive in transition.  
  • Lastly, while Hayesville will be outsized once again rebounding will be key. Mountain Island does have some size but not quite as thick as Winston Salem Prep had.


It should be a barn burner of a game, Hayesville for the first time this year will be facing a team that may be equal in talent level with them. It really will come down to which team plays better on this night. What should help Hayesville is the things Mountain Island is good at are the things Hayesville is good at defending. As well if Hayesville has another good night shooting as they did in the first round they will be tough to beat at home. Lastly, Mountain Island will be traveling for the second time in three games. Their first road trip was 120 miles and two hours, the road trip to Hayesville tonight for them will be a four-hour 220-mile trip. That fatigue can wear on you and expect Hayesville to be the fresher team in the 4th quarter.


Hayesville wins 71-68

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