Defending Alabama Class 3A private school state champion Glenwood raced to a 23-point blowout win against Hixson on Friday.
A day later, Baylor’s matchup zone defense practically slowed the Gators to a crawl. Glenwood wasn’t at all comfortable with the Red Raiders' conservative pace, but had no answer to what confronted them.
Baylor got 30 points from Matt Clendenen, stymied Glenwood’s vaunted racehorse offense and defeated the Gators, 67-51, an impressive victory that vaulted the Red Raiders into Saturday’s championship game in the Holiday Hoops Shootout at Rhea County High School.
“I thought I shot well,” said Clendenen, who scored 20 points in the second half when the Red Raiders pulled away. “I can shoot over most (opposing) players around here, but with guys like they have on the floor I definitely had to adjust my shot and get it up.”
The Red Raiders will play the Rhea County-Franklin County winner for the inaugural title trophy at approximately 8:30 p.m.
When the Red Raiders (6-2) weren’t frustrating their opponent with a defense that kept the Gators 28 points below their Thursday output, they were slicing and dicing Glenwood for points in the paint and raining 3s when lanes to the hoop were clogged with tall bodies and long arms.
“I thought we did a really nice job,” said Baylor coach Austin Clark, who is in his 32nd year with the Red Raiders. “We stopped the penetration pretty much, covered the 3s and I was proud of the effort we gave out there.”
Baylor was proficient behind the 3-point line, dazzling at times near the rim against athletic defenders, and sensational with its neck-snapping ball movement that left player after player open for good looks at the goal.
“All we want are wins and losses,” Clark said.
He added, “This team has a chance to be really special, especially if they continue to share the ball like they’re doing right now. They’re fun to watch and they play well together. That’s what the game of basketball is all about.”
Hicks strolled out of the somber Glenwood locker room, listening to music on his head phones.
“We’re disappointed because we wanted to come in here and win the whole thing,” he said. “This doesn’t happen that much to us. I’m surprised it happened today. They slowed us down, trapped us in the corners and made it tough.”
The Gators (8-2) led 17-16 after one quarter. They knew the Red Raiders weren’t going away when Baylor scored nine straight points – four by Clendenen – to start the second quarter and open an eight-point lead.
Glenwood never led again and had to play an uncomfortable game of catch up.
Hicks’ steal near midcourt and a dunk stopped the Red Raiders’ spurt, but the Red Raiders still took a 44-38 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Baylor went on a 15-8 run to start the fourth quarter and stretched the lead to 59-46 with 4:11 remaining. Clendenen had six points in the spree, his last bucket producing the 13-point edge. The Gators’ Ant Holtzclaw then hit a 3 from the right corner with 3:30 left to stop the bleeding and whittled Baylor’s lead to 10 points.
Clendenen has scored 50 points in two tournament games.
Glenwood scored only once more, that on a layup by Lawson Humphries with 46.4 seconds on the clock.
Over the final 2:29 Baylor made 6 of 9 free throws – four by Clendenen – and the game’s high scorer dropped in a field goal with 54.6 seconds remaining to cap an 8-0 run to end the Red Raiders’ scoring.
How often has an opponent take Glenwood out of its game plan?
“Not very often,” Glenwood coach Dusty Perdue said. “They outplayed us on the floor and probably outcoached us too. Their guys were patient and very fundamental. It’s not good when you don’t play good and they do just what they want to do.
“(Clendenen) had a great night scoring and they broke our bigs down and did exactly what they needed to do in this game.”
Perdue said he talked to his players about Baylor’s slower game pace, solid ball movement and playing better defense during the team’s walk through Friday morning.
Still, Baylor riddled the Gators at times while building double-digit leads in the game-changing fourth quarter.
“We’re not playing very good defense,” Perdue said. “We’re athletic as the day is long, but if you don’t play defense athleticism doesn’t help you at all. As for their ball movement, you call tell they practice it hard and play well together. Finding out this is only their eighth game coming out of football season tells you coach Clark does a really good job. I wish them luck (Saturday). I want the team that beat us to win the tournament.”
Amedeo Giussani scored 14 points for Baylor and Sammy Lupas added 10.
Hicks paced the Gators with 20 points. Holtzclaw scored 13.
Glenwood’s stout front line of Hicks, Trip Day and Tanner Thomason combined to score 47 of the Gators’ 87 points against Hixson. That same trio managed 30 against the Red Raiders, a big reason Glenwood scored 28 fewer points on Friday.
“We haven’t seen big guys like this before,” Clendenen said of the Gators’ inside players. “Getting used to that and shooting over bigger guys, making crisp passes, will help us throughout the year.”
In Friday’s first game, delayed 22 minutes by late-arriving game officials, Brainerd’s Lady Panthers got a game-high 25 points, including all four of the team’s 3-pointers, in a 47-30 win over Soddy-Daisy’s Lady Trojans.
Ward started hot and stayed that way.
As late as the fourth quarter Ward, younger sister of Brainerd coach Tyrus Ward, had her 25 points, one more than the entire Soddy-Daisy team. She was also ahead of the Lady Trojans at 17-15 and 19-17 before the Lady Trojans’ tied her at 19-all on Ashley Hancock’s field goal with 1:55 left in the third quarter.
“She’s not just a one-dimensional shooter out there,” coach Ward said. “She can hit inside, outside and off the dribble. She’s just a sophomore and has a lot of room to grow. I want her to be more vocal on the court too.”
Soddy-Daisy, plagued by sloppy play – mainly due to frequent errant passes that badly missed intended targets – most of the game, had one lead, that 1-0 on Mallory Wade’s free throw to open the game’s scoring.
With 4:09 left in the third period Brainerd was cruising at 31-15 on two Ward free throws. The Lady Trojans cut the deficit to 31-21, but the Lady Panthers outscored Soddy-Daisy 12-4 starting the final quarter and were safely ahead 43-25, with 3:38 left.
“We’ve settled in now,” coach Ward said. “We had first-game jitters when we lost to Central to start the season. We don’t have a lot of experience, but we’re making tremendous progress.”
Soddy-Daisy has now lost four of its last five games – the losses were all double-digits point spreads – and fell hard into the tournament loser’s bracket.
The Lady Trojans (3-8) bounced back to defeat East Ridge in their second game of the day.
Both teams turned around and played a second game within a 2-hour time span.
“During the FCA summer camp we played three games on some days, so we’re conditioned to that. We practice a little longer too. That camp was beneficial for something like this. We just line up and play two the hard way. It’s OK.”
The Lady Panthers went on to play host Rhea County in the girls semifinal – it was a quick turnaround.
It was a tough outing for the Lady Panthers.
The Lady Golden Eagles (10-2) jumped on Brainerd early and had a 30-15 lead at halftime. Rhea kept up the pressure in the second half and breezed to the 21-point win.
Jessee Wallis led Rhea County with 15 points. Julie Brown scored 13 points, including three 3s, and Amber Levi added 12.
Ward again paced the Lady Panthers (6-2), with 20 points and hit four 3s, giving her eight in the two games. Jumeka Brown tossed in 16 points and made four 3s as well.
“They’re a well-coached team,” Ward said of the Lady Golden Eagles. “They got after us a little bit. We’re young and we needed to get pounded on a little bit. I’ve never learned anything from a win, but we’ll learn and grow from this loss.”
Rhea County will play the Cannon County-Walker Valley winner in Saturday’s girls championship game at 7 p.m.
Baylor 16 11 17 23 – 67
Glenwood 17 8 13 13 – 51
Baylor (67) – Matt Clendenen 30, Amedeo Giusanni 14, Sammy Lupas 10, Upshaw 3, King 2, Maize 6, Seaberg 2.
Glenwood (51) – Thomas 6, Ant Holtzclaw 13, Thomason 4, Alex Hicks 20, Humphries 2, Day 6.
3-Point Goals: Baylor 6 (Giusanni 3, Maize 2, Clendenen); Glenwood 3 (Hicks 2, Holtzclaw).
Soddy-Daisy 3 8 10 9 – 30
Brainerd 8 12 11 16 – 47
Soddy-Daisy (30) – Harris 4, Hopkins 5, Smith, King 2, Ward 3, Phillips 4, Hancock 4, Wade 8.
Brainerd (47) – Jamee Ward 25, Walker 8, Brown 6, No. 32 4, Price, Sparks, Cosme.
3-Point Goals: Soddy-Daisy 2 (Phillips, Wade); Brainerd 4 (Ward 4).
Brainerd 5 10 12 14 -- 41
Rhea County 16 14 14 18 – 62
Brainerd (41) – Jumeka Brown 16, Jamee Ward 20, Sparks 2, Walker 3, Ashley, Callaway.
Rhea County (62) – Revis 3, Loden 2, Freeman 2, Miles 1, Jessee Wallis 15, Thurman 6, Julie Brown 13, Keen 2, Amber Levi 12, Rader 6.
3-Point Goals: Brainerd 8 (J. Brown 4, Ward 4); Rhea County 6 (Brown 3, Rader 2, Revis)
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)