Both the Grace Academy and Arts & Sciences boys' basketball teams needed patience in Tuesday night's Region 3-A semifinals at CSAS.
The Patriots used it to wait for the shots they wanted in their 50-40 win over Lookout Valley, while patience helped the Golden Eagles hold off a pesky Van Buren County team for a 58-48 victory.
The reward for both teams is a spot in Thursday's 7 p.m. region championship game, as well as next Monday's Class A sectionals, where teams will play for state-tournament berths.
"We just tried to be patient," CSAS coach Mark Dragoo said after his team held District 6-A champion Lookout Valley to just nine points in the first half. "We were not going to take shots we didn't want to take. That's the struggle we've had all year, but we did a much better job tonight. This is the most inexperienced team I've ever had, and one of the youngest, but two or three weeks ago, we could finally see that they were starting to figure things out."
The Patriots took a 17-9 lead into halftime of their semifinal, and a 3-pointer from Chaison Gordon at the third-quarter buzzer put them up 31-19. With 3:22 remaining, CSAS held a 17-point advantage, but 3s from William Long helped Lookout Valley cut it to 43-35 in the final minute.
The Patriots went 7-of-10 from the free-throw line in the final 55 seconds to seal the win, and senior Jonathan Kurtz finished with a game-high 19 points. Patrick Taylor scored 12 for the Patriots (11-14), and Frank Brogden followed with 11.
"Jonathan is a senior, and he's our leader," Dragoo said. "All year long, he's given it everything he's got. Patrick, Frank and Chaison, all those guys did a great job tonight."
Although District 5-A champion Grace Academy never trailed in its semifinal matchup with Van Buren County, it was a battle for the Golden Eagles from start to finish. The strong, physical Van Buren team came within a point of tying the score twice in the second quarter, and trailed just 26-24 at the half.
Two big 3-pointers kept the Eagles in the game during the third quarter, but Corey Nelson scored with 5.1 seconds left in the period to send Grace into the fourth with a 42-37 lead. From there, Grace spread the floor and slowed the pace, but Van Buren County stayed within five points until the final 1:20.
"This was about as physical as I've seen it," Grace coach Jon Mattheiss said. "They're bigger and stronger than us, but we had some kids step up and bang bodies with them. I think it was just a battle of wills. Both teams knew what they wanted to do, but I felt like if we could get a lead, we could spread the floor and they would struggle with it because of our quickness."
Nelson, who scored a game-high 18 points, hit two foul shots at the two-minute mark, and the Golden Eagles found Josh Smith for a wide-open layup 15 second later to help secure the 58-48 victory. Smith finished with 12 points for Grace (17-10) and Stephen Record added 11.
"From our very first practice, we've said that our goal was to get to the region championship," Mattheiss said. "Once you're there, win or lose, you still have a shot to get to state. I'm just really proud of our guys. At one point we were 8-10, but now we've won our last nine in a row. We've played a lot of tough competition, and I think that's been very beneficial."
The region tournament continues Wednesday with the girls' championship game between Whitwell and Van Buren County at 7 p.m. CSAS and Grace will face off for a fourth time Thursday at 7, when the Patriots will try for their first victory over their rivals this season.
"I told the guys that when you get to this point, there's no pressure," Mattheiss said. "It'll just be another exciting game between Grace and Arts."
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at email@example.com
Region 3-A Boys' Semifinals
ARTS & SCIENCES 50, LOOKOUT VALLEY 40
4 5 10 19 -- 40
Arts & Sciences
12 5 14 19 -- 50
Lookout Valley (40) -- William Long 16, Tshombe Farmer 11, Gay 4, Morris, Rudolph 2, Jones, Heathington 7, Parham, Dozier.
Arts & Sciences (50) -- Frank Brogden 11, Craig, O'Hare, Patrick Taylor 12, Jonathan Kurtz 19, Gordon 7, Carter 1, Moore.
GRACE ACADEMY 58, VAN BUREN COUNTY 48
Van Buren County
9 15 13 11 -- 48
14 12 16 16 -- 58
Van Buren (48) -- Hitchcock 9, McDonald 9, Ayers 6, Tyler Turner 11, Simmons 6, Delon 2, Woods, Holland 2, Shockley 3.
Grace (58) -- Johnston 3, Stephen Record 11, Corey Nelson 18, Josh Smith 12, Hernandez 2, Tisdale 3, Powell 9.