Hutchens looks back fondly on young Irish team’s fight

KNOXVILLE — A magical season recently came to an end for Knoxville Catholic High School’s boys basketball team.

The Irish, who started three freshmen this season, saw their season come to an end with a 65-58 loss to Oak Ridge in the Region 2-AAA semifinals at ORHS’s Wildcat Arena, but KCHS head coach Mike Hutchens didn’t have too many complaints after his team’s season-ending loss Tuesday. Feb. 26.

“We had a helluva a year,” Hutchens said in a phone interview late last week. “We were 1 minute, 50 seconds away from beating Oak Ridge on their home court and making it to substate. That’s a tough place to play. We were 25-7.

“If you’d have told me before the season that we would’ve gone 25-7 and been 1:50 away from making substate, I would’ve taken it.”

For the last two seasons, Catholic has competed in District 4-AAA against the likes of Bearden, Maryville, West, Farragut, Hardin Valley Academy and William Blount. The Irish, who will play in Division II-AA next season, moved to Class AAA after reaching the Class AA state championship game in 2017.

KCHS had a talented squad in the recently completed season.

The Irish finished third in the regular-season standings, then upset No. 2 seed Maryville 78-65 in the District 4-AAA Tournament semifinals before losing to Bearden in the title game tilt.

The victory against the Rebels was particularly satisfying for the Irish, who lost two close games to Maryville during the regular season. The win also was the 550th of Hutchens’ illustrious career at the helm.

Hutchens started three freshman: point guard B.J. Edwards (who made the All-Region 2-AA Tournament team), guard Presley Patterson and post player Handje Tamba.

Junior post plyer Akeem Odusipe (an all-region standout) and seniors Reece Harpst and Ryan MacDonald were also key players, who recently finished their prep career. Sophomore Sam Sompayrac also started and was a key contributor

Three of my top six players are freshmen and they’re only going to get better,” Hutchens said. “B.J. made the all-tournament team at the region and Presley Patterson led us in 3-point percentage. Tamba is only a freshman and he’s gotten better. Sam’s a sophomore and, of course, Akeem’s a junior.

“They’re only getting better and just imagine how good they’re going to be as seniors. The future is bright for us.”

Hutchens noted that the Irish have lofty goals next season and those may include a trip to Nashville and the Division II-AA State Tournament.