The Hixson Wildcats, coming off a huge District 6-AAA upset of Central, gave another high-energy performance Friday night against the host Tyner Rams.
But with only seven Wildcats playing significant minutes that energy began to wane midway through the second half against the deeper and fundamentally sound Rams of coach Gerald Harris. Fatigue inevitably leads to fouling, and the Rams enjoyed a monumental night at the line to pull away for 73-53 victory.
The win was the Rams' sixth straight, leaving them as perhaps the proverbial hot hand going into the final week of the regular season.
“Can you believe that's one of the teams at the bottom of the district?” a relieved Harris chuckled after the game. “They're really dangerous because they do the little things well. They did a good job of being patient until the fouls started to stack up.”
Hixson senior center D'Monte Smith is one of the true stars of the district, albeit one without a lot of support. But on nights like Friday, when teammates Allen Diaz and Justice Alameda added 13 and 11 points, respectively, the Wildcats can find themselves leading two minutes into the third quarter and down by only two, 37-35, midway through the period.
It could have been much worse had not Tyner guard Jemicah Bowman gotten off to a fast start. Bowman, hitting four 3-pointers in the first half, scored 14 of Tyner's 29 points at intermission. He would up with 22 points and plenty of praise from his coach.
“We've been looking for that hot start for several games,” Harris said. “But I also thought Jemicah did a really good job in the second half at not relying on the 3-point shot.”
The foul-plagued game's pivotal moment came when Hixson's Smith picked up his third foul late in the second quarter. He stayed on the bench to start the third period and Tyner's big man inside, Briston Bridgemann, scored nine points in quick succession en route to a 12-point night.
The Rams put together a 13-2 run around Bridgemann's big quarter to stretch out their lead to nine, 46-37. Hixson scrapped back to make it a five-point margin going into the fourth quarter, but then the foul parade began. So many fouls and free throws cluttered the period, the three-man officiating crew twice lost track of who was shooting what.
For the game, Tyner was a robust 26 of 33 from the line for the contest to pull away from the Wildcats, who weren't bad at 22 of 27. Hixson had only two field goals in the fourth quarter as the Tyner defense kept the clamps down.
“We had our moments,” Hixson coach Alex Disbrow said. “We had to ride our horses a little hard to keep up with them, and it started to show in the fourth quarter.
“We're close,” he added. “We're a couple of big plays from being pretty decent, a box-out here or filling the lane there will make a big difference. But we've got to make one of those plays first, and we need to do it soon.”
Smith had another strong all-around night for the Wildcats (8-16, 2-10) with 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. For the Rams (14-6, 7-4), Chris Weller came off the bench to produce 10 points.
“If we wind up being the team that survives this great district, it will be because of our defense,” Harris said. “Our team always goes out hard and competes.”
Lady Rams Pull Away For Early Win
Playing before a largely empty gym at 5:30, the Tyner Lady Rams pulled away from Hixson in the fourth quarter Friday to earn a 56-42 District 6-AAA win.
Keisha Parks led the Lady Rams with 18 points, but Delvay Hines added 16 to the winning effort. Hixson got 12 points from Marissa Hill and 11 apiece from Cierra Taylor and Ty Harmon.
Hixson 12 16 13 12 – 53
Tyner 15 14 17 27 – ` 73
HIXSON (53) – Justice Alameda 11, Nelson, D'Monta Smith 20, Hayes 2, Allen Diaz 13, Abbott 3, Novene, Gass, Wilkey.
TYNER (73) – Spence 8, D. Rollins 2, L. Rollins 6, Jemicah Bowman 22, Briston Bridgemann 12, Watkins 5, Watson 4, Hardwick, Chris Waller 10, James 4.
3-pt. Goals: Hixson none; Tyner 5 (Bowman 5). Records: Hixson 8-16, 2-10 in 6-AAA; Tyner 14-6, 7-4.
Hixson 14 10 7 11 – 42
Tyner 11 18 11 16 – 56
HIXSON (42) – Cierra Taylor 11, Marissa Hill 12, Ty Harmon 11, Staten 3, Massengale 5.
TYNER (56) – Delvay Hines 16, Keisha Parks 18, Montgomery 7, McElvain 3, Smith 8, Turner 4.
Records: Hixson 9-12, 5-7 in 6-AAA; Tyner 6-14, 4-7 in 6-AAA.