Shooting percentages don’t mean much to Ooltewah boys basketball coach Andre Montgomery.
He loves shots though. Lots of them.
He's not picky. It doesn't matter if it’s a 3 or a traditional two-point attempt.
Just shoot, baby, shoot.
That’s what Montgomery’s Owls did Tuesday night at East Hamilton, especially in the second half. They shot and shot and shot. Then they shot some more.
In classic racehorse basketball, Ooltewah buried East Hamilton under a 51-point second-half avalanche and stormed from behind to win 85-72 in a superbly entertaining District 5-AAA high school basketball game before a boisterous crowd on the Hurricanes’ home court.
“We tell our kids that if you’re open shoot the ball,” said Montgomery, who is handling most of the in-game coaching as Jesse Nayadley makes the transition from coaching to being the Owls’ full-time assistant principal and athletic director.
“We have great confidence in our kids shooting the ball,” Montgomery said. “We’d rather put up shots than not get an attempt. I don’t worry about percentages, not at all. We’re about wins and losses, not percentages. If we miss some shots I also have complete confidence in our players to get some offensive rebounds. They just go get them and we did a lot of that in the second half.”
Five players combined for 80 of the Owls’ 85 points.
C.J. Fritz led the offensive onslaught with a game-high 20 points, with eight in the second quarter when the Owls were battling to keep pace with the Hurricanes.
Jamycal Johnson scored 18, eight in the fourth quarter.
Jarek Boyd and Ben Snider each had 15 – Boyd scored nine in the third quarter
Ron King tossed in another 12, all in the second half.
Has Johnson ever seen a 3 he didn’t like?
“Not tonight,” he said. “All of us are confident shooting 3s.”
Johnson drained three of the Owls’ eight 3-pointers. Snider had two and King, Fritz and Edward Montgomery each had one.
Fritz said only on rare occasions would he hesitate to take a 3-point shot.
“If you just take a 3 out of nowhere with the score tied, that might be a bad 3,” he said. “But if you’re open, shoot the ball.”
According to Stone, the Owls made 8-of-32 3s and most coaches would take that from a defensive standpoint and leave the gym satisfied. However, Stone left the gym and walked into sub-freezing cold knowing that on many of those misses the Owls got offensive rebounds and had numerous second-chance buckets.
“In the third quarter,” East Hamilton coach Michael Stone said, “we had what should have been defensive stops with shot-blocks and contested shots, but we got so tired. We gave up 22 offensive rebounds tonight and made 21 turnovers. You can’t win ballgames playing like that.”
The Owls (5-3, 2-0) took 26 more shots than the Hurricanes.
“They can afford to shoot poorly and still beat you,” he said, “when they get that many more possessions.”
The teams battled on mostly equal terms in the first half, but the Hurricanes managed to take a 41-34 lead into halftime behind the combined 28 points by sophomore Kenny Bunton and freshman Mac Brower.
The pair alternated scoring on five different possessions starting the second quarter when East Hamilton (3-4, 1-1) outscored the Owls 27-17.
Bunton and Brower each finished with 19 points. Bunton scored 11 and Brower added seven in a 27-point second quarter when the Hurricanes twice had seven-point leads that came on buckets by Bunton, who missed a few minutes of the action after suffering a cut under his left eye.
The game turned on a dime in the third quarter.
Ooltewah went on a 12-2 run to open a 46-43 lead. Trailing 43-42, Snider was intentionally fouled by East Hamilton point guard Tyler Lowery – Stone vehemently disagreed with the call – and made two free throws and Fritz followed with a field goal at the 4:30 mark to give the Owls a lead they never relinquished.
“The intentional foul was a real momentum swing in the ballgame,” Stone said.
The Hurricanes, who got 19 points each from Bunton and Brower, plus 13 from Tracy Thompson, fought to stay within striking distance and trailed by 55-54 with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
Ooltewah was up 60-54 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Edward Montgomery – no relation to the coach – hit a 3 from the right corner. Fritz dropped in a jumper. Johnson nailed a 3 from the top of the circle and 27 seconds later made a three-point play. Boyd hit two free throws and the Owls had a 70-58 lead with 5:40 left.
After Thompson and James Wright scored for the Hurricanes, King made one free throw, ended a fastbreak with a dunk and Snider canned a 3 from the left corner and the Owls had a 76-62 advantage with just over three minutes remaining.
It was over. The only formality was the time left ticking off the clock.
“They’ve been talking about the rivalry,” coach Montgomery said. “We’ve only played three times and we’ve won all three games. We have bigger rivals in our district because we’ve been playing those teams longer.
“I guess the football games have spilled over into the basketball this season. We just want to win ballgames. It’s not so much a rivalry. It’s another district win.”
The Hurricanes were pretty well spent as the final minutes ran off the clock and coach Michael Stone took much of the blame.
“I did a poor job tonight with our rotations,” said Stone, whose Hurricanes are 3-4 overall and 1-1 in district play. “I thought we lost our legs tonight. We have proven players over there and we can go deeper into our bench. I just didn’t give those guys a chance and that’s poor coaching.”
In the girls game, East Hamilton had a 35-31 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Owls tied it on Bethany Spange’s free throw and a three-point play by India Corley.
The Lady Hurricanes got a Destyne Black field goal to go up by two.
With 41 seconds left, Ooltewah sophomore Tamiyah Baker hit a clutch 3 from the corner and Allie Jones added a free throw for the final two-point victory margin.
“We finally played hard,” Lady Owls coach Donnie Mullins said. “We played like we wanted to be out there on the floor. For a sophomore to step up and take that 3 was big, much less make it.”
The Lady Owls (2-4, 1-2) gained their final possession with 0.2 seconds left. They tried a long pass, but it sailed out of bounds without being touched at the other end of the court, giving the Lady Hurricanes one last chance.
“All we had to do was touch the ball and the game’s over,” Mullins said.
East Hamilton (1-6, 0-2), limited to 13 second-half points, didn’t have enough time to even get a desperation shot off.
Baker led the Lady Owls with 11 points.
Merci Wood and Taylor Giles each scored seven for the Lady Hurricanes.
Ooltewah 12 2 13 12 – 39
East Hamilton 10 14 6 7 – 37
Ooltewah (39) – Cain, Taylor 6, Cooper 4, Jones 3, Hall 3, Tamiyah Baker 11, Spange 1, Corley 9.
East Hamilton (37) – Pettit 6, Woods 3, Caudle 6, Stovall 2, Merci Wood 7, Zackery 2, Black 4, Taylor Giles 7.
3-Point Goals: Ooltewah 4 (Taylor 2, Cooper, Baker); East Hamilton 3 (Giles 2, Pettit).
Ooltewah 17 17 26 25 – 85
East Hamilton 14 27 13 18 – 72
Ooltewah (85) – Jaymcal Johnson 18, Jarek Boyd 15, Ron King 12, Ben Snider 15, C.J. Fritz 20, Ross 2, Montgomery 3.
East Hamilton (72) – Tracy Thompson 13, Lowery 4, Sparks 2, Kenny Bunton 19, Wright 4, Griffith 9, Mac Brower 19, Beach 2.
3-Point Goals: Ooltewah 8 (Johnson 3, Snider 2, King, Fritz, Montgomery); East Hamilton 3 (Thompson, Bunton, Brower).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)