Boyd-Buchanan learned a lesson Saturday night.
Tyner can play defense, too.
Tyner broke away from a 35-35 tie in the third quarter with a 21-0 run that carried over into the fourth period and the once-beaten Rams whipped the previously undefeated Bucs, 56-40, to capture their first Best of Preps basketball tournament title at Chattanooga State.
Sadik Spence, benched for a half in the opener and held to 16 points in the two previous tourney wins, saved his best for last by powering the Rams with a game-high 22 points and earning the tournament’s most valuable player award.
“This feels great,” said Spence, who scored 14 first-half points that helped the Rams take a 28-26 lead into halftime. “It’s the first time in Tyner history to win the Best of Preps tournament. I think we played well as a team, nobody was selfish and we came together to win.”
Spence got off to a shaky start, but a baseline jumper and a 3 from the top of the circle lit a fire and he eventually scored 12 first-quarter points and added six more before halftime.
Nobody plays for coach Gerald Harris without playing relentless defense and Spence was one of many factors in the Rams holding the Bucs to 14 second-half points.
“Defense wins games,” Spence said. “We work on defense 24/7 and we know what we have to do. That’s what led to the 21-0 run.”
Harris said basically the same thing.
“Defense,” he said when asked what triggered the game-changing spurt. “We stepped it up defensively. Also, our bench (meaning Harris) got a technical just before that run began and once I sat down we got going. My guys really took control of the game, the tempo headed our way and it was a matter of closing it out.”
The Bucs, losing for the first time in 13 games, played even with the Rams for 20 minutes and built an early 14-8 lead. Boyd-Buchanan’s last advantage was 26-24 with 1:23 left in the second quarter. Tyner’s Daaron Mastin hit a short jumper and Dequan Hardwick tapped in a Spence miss with 0.4 seconds left for a 28-26 halftime cushion.
Tyner (10-1) then added to its lead in the third with buckets by Alex Watkins, Daaron Mastin (a 3) and Rodney Watson – to take a nine-point lead.
Boyd-Buchanan refused to roll over and answered the Rams with nine consecutive points – four each from Q.D. Cox and Zack Jenkins and a Justus McMillan free throw after Harris’ technical – to pull level at 35-all with 2:48 left in the third period.
Boom! The Rams went off.
Hardwick hit a layup. Watkins blocked a McMillan shot and Spence raced to the other end for a layup. Hardwick made a free throw. Spence missed a dunk. Following Cox’s turnover, Hardwick drove the lane for another layup – he had 10 first-half points and finished with 12.
After the teams exchanged a few turnovers and errant shots, Watson cranked up the Rams’ offense again with a bucket and Hardwick scored 14 seconds later. Following a travel call on Jenkins, DeVante Jones picked up a loose ball and dropped in a layup.
Kevin Cameron connected on two free throws, Spence converted a three-point play and Cameron got a steal and drove for a layup to cap the 21-0 run that crushed any hopes Boyd-Buchanan had of claiming its first tourney title.
“Our defense stepped up,” Watkins said. “We didn’t want them hanging around in the fourth quarter.”
The Rams’ scoring spree started with 2:35 left in the third. The Bucs’ scoring drought lasted eight minutes and Colby Arendale ended it with a layup – his only points of the game.
“The levee broke after we tied the game up in the third quarter,” Bucs coach Cole Rose said. “We couldn’t get into anything we wanted to do. Defensively in the half-court we were pretty good, but in transition they killed us.
“In that run they got a lot of stuff in transition and started to capitalize in the half-court too.”
Despite the outcome, the Bucs got a lot out of the three-day tournament.
“We faced Baylor, Ooltewah and Tyner,” Rose said, “and that’s three great looks that will help us get a whole lot better. Those are probably the three best teams on our schedule in the regular season and that’s really exciting. It gave us an opportunity to improve.”
The Bucs went into the game ranked as the state’s No. 6-rated scoring defense, allowing 44.5 points per game, according to the coachT.com website. Until Tyner cranked up the pressure in the second half, Boyd-Buchanan was able to rely on that superb defense to keep pace.
“The game was where we wanted it,” said Austin Walker, who was limited to seven points after putting up a combined 26 in wins over Baylor and Ooltewah. “But they did a good job pressuring us and making us do stuff we usually don’t do and props to them. They’re a great team.”
Cox led the Bucs with 11 points.
After the Tyner victory, Harris probably had more respect for Boyd-Buchanan than he did on Friday.
“To me Boyd is like the Belmont of high school basketball,” he said. “They do everything right. They’re gritty and will never give up. They’re well-coached. We told our guys before the game that the difference would be how smart we played and the pressure we put on them defensively.
“We did a really good job at the end playing team defense and more than anything else that was the difference in this game.”
Ooltewah 85, Notre Dame 54: While disappointed about missing out on appearing in the title game, the Owls (8-4) roared past the Fighting Irish behind a barrage of 14 3-pointers in a game for third place.
Ooltewah made 18 field goals, but clearly the offensive emphasis was geared to the outside and Ron King led the way with five 3s and a game-high 21 points. C.J. Fritz made three 3s, Ben Snider and Thomas Williams each added two and Jaymcal Johnson dropped in one.
“I knew the guys were hurting not being in the championship game,” Owls coach Andre Montgomery said, “but I was really proud the way they responded. I was leery about how we might play.”
Montgomery shouldn’t have worried.
The Owls broke away from a 24-22 first-quarter lead and went into halftime with a 50-35 advantage and stretched that margin to 73-41 after three periods.
King was joined in double-figure scoring by Fritz with 17 points and Snider had 16.
Tyler Byrd paced the Irish (3-10) with 18 points, Kareem Orr had 15 and A.J. Flemister finished with 10.
Baylor 50, McCallie 48: The Red Raiders, who had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but saw McCallie slice the margin to two.
Baylor was up 49-44 with 39.5 seconds remaining when coach Austin Clark was slapped with his second technical foul of the game. Clark was ejected.
McCallie’s JaVaughn Craig, who led the Blue Tornado with 17 points, hit two technical foul shots, cutting the Red Raiders’ lead to 49-46.
On the ensuing possession C.J. Fritz made a floater from the lane and the Tornado trailed by one with 18.9 seconds on the clock.
Baylor’s Amadeo Giussani hit a free throw, but missed the second attempt and McCallie’s Winston Whitener missed a baseline jumper as time expired.
Matt Clendenen scored a game-high 21 points for Baylor (8-3) in the game for fifth place. Giussani and Sammy Lupas each had 10 points.
Ringgold 67, Grace Baptist 44: Jordan Ransom scored a game-high 17 points in pacing the Tigers to a seventh-place finish. Zach Dean added 11 points.
Will Slack scored nine points for the Golden Eagles.
Boyd-Buchanan 14 12 9 5 – 40
Tyner 13 15 15 13 – 56
Boyd-Buchanan (40) – R. Walker, Allen 1, Evans 1, Arendale 2, McMillan 4, Q.D. Cox 11, Covington, A. Walker 7, Jenkins 6, Hodge 2, Nason 6.
Tyner (56) –Watson 5, Sadik Spence 22, Mastin 5, Jones 2, Dequan Hardwick 12, Cameron 6, Strickland, Howard, Bonds, Wilson, Watkins 4.
3-Point Goals: Boyd-Buchanan 1 (Cox); Tyner 2 (Spence, Mastin).
Ooltewah 24 26 23 12 – 85
Notre Dame 22 13 6 13 – 54
Ooltewah (85) – Johnson 5, Boyd 8, Ron King 21, Ben Snider 16, C.J. Fritz 17, Ross, Montgomery 7, Turner, Williams 6, Wooten, Hughes, Freeman 2, Strickland, Cothran 4.
Notre Dame (54) – Green 4, A.J. Flemister 10, Davis 7, Kareem Orr 15, Ballard, Grannon, Tyler Byrd 18, Harris, Lewis.
3-Point Goals: Ooltewah 14 (King 5, Fritz 3, Snider 2, Williams 2, Johnson); Notre Dame none.
Baylor 10 17 6 17 – 50
McCallie 4 13 14 17 – 48
Baylor (50) – Maize 3, Brogdon, Matt Clendenen 21, Seaberg 2, Upshaw 2, King 2, Sammy Lupas 10, Amadeo Giussani 10.
McCallie (48) – C.J. Fritz 16, JaVaughn Craig 17, Thomas 5, Whitener 3, Alford, Baird, Clark, King 5, Walker 2.
3-Point Goals: Baylor 1 (Clendenen); McCallie 4 (Craig 3, Fritz).
Ringgold 10 22 10 25 – 67
Grace Baptist 12 7 12 13 – 44
Ringgold (67) – Jo. Roach 8, J.T. Roach 5, Sholl 7, Gilbert 2, Zach Dean 11, Cribb 2, Wright 2, Spalding, Volz 1, Wilkens 2, Jordan Ransom 17, Sosebee 4, Baer 6.
Grace Baptist (44) – Slack 9, Roberts 4, Lyons 2, Savard 7, Hughes 2, Godsey 6, McQueen 2, Mathews 8, Cooke 4.
3-Point Goals: Ringgold 4 (Jo. Roach 2, Sholl, Dean); Grace Baptist 3 (Mathews 2, Hughes).
MVP -- Sadik Spence, Tyner
Tyner -- Kevin Cameron, Alex Watkins
Boyd-Buchanan -- Austin Walker, Zack Jenkins
Ooltewah -- Ben Snider, C.J. Fritz
Notre Dame -- Kareem Orr
Baylor -- Matt Clendenen
McCallie -- LaVaughn Craig
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)