McCallie’s senior guard Jamaal Calvin warned his teammates about Tyner’s DeVante Jones, a diminutive, baby-faced freshman.
“I told them he could shoot,” Calvin said.
The McCallie veteran, one of the city’s best 3-point shooters, proved prophetic.
Jones’ 3-pointer from deep in the dark right corner at McCallie’s Sports and Activities Center, swished the net and proved to be the game-winning points as Tyner held on to beat the Blue Tornado, 38-37, Monday night.
“That felt great,” Jones said of his clutch 3 with 1:58 left in the low-scoring game that saw both teams struggle to score points.
“He knocked it down,” said Calvin.
Jones moved to Chattanooga from New Orleans after the family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 28, 2005. More than 1,800 people were killed by the storm and subsequent floods after every levee in Metro New Orleans was breeched.
“He (caught my eye) three years ago,” Tyner coach Gerald Harris said. “His brother came to my school and (DeVante) came to my camp. I saw DeVante and said, ‘That kid is really going to be good.’ He has a feel for the game, although he’s not big and he’s not strong.
“He plays freshman ball, junior varsity ball and varsity. When he plays freshman, he plays to that level. He’s starting to understand (varsity) ball and that’s the maturity part of it.”
But, as Calvin had warned, Jones came up big with the biggest shot of his fledgling prep basketball career and helped extend the Rams’ winning streak to four games.
As it turned out, Jones’ 3 – one of just two by the Rams – were the last points Tyner (12-6) scored in the game.
Jemicah Bowman, with 13 points the only player on the floor to reach double figures, missed a free throw with 1:21 remaining and missed another shot with under a minute to play.
However, McCallie (9-11) couldn’t find the rim, either.
After Jones’ basket, the Tornado missed six of seven shots, Calvin’s jumper from just inside the foul lane the only one to find its mark.
In the final hectic seconds, McCallie’s Eric Wolf missed a point-blank layup and tip, with a mad scramble for the loose ball ensuing as time ran out.
“We missed a lot of layups,” McCallie coach Dan Wadley said. “I think we shot 29 percent on twos. Some were contested. We were trying to score, but it was just one of those nights when we couldn’t shoot the ball.
“If they had been hitting their shots, they would have buried us.”
McCallie made two 3s against the Rams after hitting nine in a 56-52 loss to the Rams on Dec. 4 at Tyner. In that game, Jorden Williams (five) and Calvin (four) combined for all nine of the Tornado’s 3s, but Calvin went without a 3 in Monday’s rematch and Williams made one.
Calvin could not remember the last time he came up empty from behind the arc.
“I’m a defensive guy,” Harris said. “On a night when we don’t have anything going offensively, defense is what’s going to win games. Our whole thing was to contest every basket. When they catch the basketball you need to have a hand in their face. Make it difficult.”
That strategy worked all night, but Harris was still a bit jittery on the sideline.
“They usually shoot lights out,” he said. “I was just waiting for that to happen in the second half. I said, ‘Well, it’s getting ready to happen.”
But, it didn’t.
Calvin’s lone 3 came with 5:26 left in the second quarter and gave McCallie a 15-14 lead. Williams got the other one from the right wing with 7:41 left in the third and tied the game at 22-22.
C.J. Fritz made two field goals in the first 50 seconds of the fourth quarter, but Calvin’s jumper with 54.6 seconds remaining was the Tornado’s only other bucket in that period.
“Our shots weren’t falling,” Calvin said. “We tried to attack the basket because we weren’t hitting anything (from outside). We weren’t clicking.”
Tyner scored 16 second-half points and still won.
“We weren’t trying to slow it down,” Bowman said. “It was just the pace of the game. My 3-shot wasn’t falling, so I tried to go to the rack and get something there.”
Bowman, who scored 11 of Tyner’s 16 points in a span that covered part of the second, third and fourth quarters, hit two layups to match Fritz’s two baskets and the game was tied at 33 with 5:38 left.
Tyner then went scoreless for two minutes, but McCallie only managed two free throws by Creighton Moxey for a 35-33 Tornado lead.
Tyner’s DeQwan Hardwick broke the Rams’ scoring drought with a field goal – his only points of the game – to knot the game at 35. One minute, 40 seconds later, Jones drilled the shot that broke McCallie’s heart after an alert assist by Hardwick.
“That was a really big basket,” Harris said. “And for DeQwan to penetrate and see him in the corner was really good.”
Not only did Tyner win its fourth straight game – the Rams beat Brainerd (60-46), Central (57-51), Red Bank (59-41) leading up to the McCallie game – it completed the season sweep of the Blue Tornado.
For Bowman, that was something to brag about.
“We lost to them three years in a row,” the 5-foot-11-inch senior said. “This is the first year we beat them at our house and their house.”
Calvin and Wolf each scored nine points for McCallie, which has lost four of its last five games. On Saturday, the Tornado dropped a 57-56 decision to rival Baylor and prior to thrashing Signal Mountain, had lost to Ensworth (79-67) and The Rock Christian School (66-54) out of Gainesville, Fla., in the Scenic City Showcase at East Hamilton High School.
“I think there’s always a letdown after a Baylor game mentally and physically,” Wadley said. “I just think that happens, but you have to play through it. There’s always going to be a game after the Baylor game.
“The last time we beat Baylor we played Father Ryan next and got beat. It was tied going into the fourth quarter just like this one.”
Tyner 11 11 7 9 – 38
McCallie 10 7 12 8 – 37
Tyner (38) – Rollins 2, Spence 6, Jemicah Bowman 13, Walker, Strickland, Bridgeman 4, Watson 3, Hardwick 2, Jones 7.
McCallie (37) – Fritz 4, Williams 5, Moxey 2, Jacobs 4, Calvin 9, Clark 4, Wolf 9, Couch, Alford, Hobbs.
3-Point Goals – Tyner 2 (Jones, Spence); McCallie 2 (Williams, Calvin).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)