Heading into postseason play, the Grace Academy boys' basketball players believed they were a much better team than their record indicated.
Friday in the District 5-A semifinals at Chattanooga State, the Golden Eagles went out and proved it.
Behind 20 points from junior Blake Savard, third-seeded Grace held on for a 41-38 upset victory over No. 2 Arts & Sciences, and will play Boyd-Buchanan for the district title Saturday at 8 p.m. The Grace girls also defeated CSAS in their semifinal, and will face Silverdale Baptist in the girls' championship game at 6:30.
"This was huge for us, because we've lost a lot of close ballgames this year," said Golden Eagles' coach Jon Mattheiss, whose team lost both regular-season matchups with the Patriots. "It's nice to hang on and win one at the end. We've had more than our fair share of heartbreaking losses where we just couldn't pull it out in the end. Emotionally, it's very good for us to feel like we can do this."
Grace (10-13) kept the tempo slow and ended the first quarter with a 16-9 advantage, and at halftime that margin was 22-17.
"It was very similar to when we played them at home," Mattheiss said. "It was a very slow-paced, halfcourt game. Both defenses were really solid, and both offenses were cautious. It was like a chess match, back and forth."
In the second half, the Patriots briefly held a two-point lead after four consecutive free throws from Nick Moore, but Savard responded with a 3-pointer. He opened the fourth period with another trey that put Grace up 33-27 before CSAS tied it with a 6-0 run.
Golden Eagles senior Josh Smith scored all of his five points in the game's final 4:40, starting with a basket to put Grace back on top, followed by a free throw to make it 36-33. The Patriots' Elijah Davenport nailed a 3 to tie it with 2:23 remaining, but Savard responded with one of his own.
Although a Davenport putback got CSAS within a point with 1:28 left to play, Smith scored with just under a minute on the clock. A traveling violation for the Patriots and a steal from Savard then sealed the 41-38 victory.
"I think the difference this time was that when they made a run on us, we finally made a run back," Mattheiss said. "We had a couple of really nice back-to-back baskets after we got down, and we did not have that last time. We're so evenly matched that it can go either way. Every rebound matters; every loose ball matters. Fortunately, this time a lot of those happened to go our way."
Savard was the only double-digit scorer for Grace, while Davenport led CSAS with 16. The Patriots will face Silverdale in the consolation game Saturday at 5 p.m.
Grace girls 53, CSAS 50:
The Lady Golden Eagles were seeded third after losing a tiebreaker to CSAS. Grace split with the Lady Patriots during the regular season, but built a seven-point lead at the end of the first quarter in Friday's semifinal.
By the end of the half, however, CSAS had pulled to within 26-23, and took a 35-34 advantage into the fourth quarter.
"We had a good lead early, but then it became a combination of them not giving up and us giving it away," Compton said. "When it looked like they were starting to run away with it, we had several people make some really big plays."
The Lady Golden Eagles trailed by five in the fourth quarter when Maggie Compton connected on one of her four 3-pointers. Erika Goodman followed that by stealing the inbounds pass and driving for a layup to tie the score. Grace then hit several big free-throws down the stretch, including four from Sierra Nunley in the fourth quarter, and three from Jessica Bonner.
"Both teams battled hard, and we both had our chances," Compton said. "I'm just glad our early lead held up in the end."
Bonner and Compton finished with 12 points apiece, and Nunley totaled 11 for Grace (10-13), which will play Silverdale for the title Saturday at 6:30.
Silverdale Baptist girls 69, Boyd-Buchanan 35:
A 31-point performance from senior Mariah Massengill led the Lady Seahawks into the girls' championship game. Top-seeded and unbeaten in district play, they dominated their way to a 37-20 halftime lead and extended it to 55-26 by the end of the third.
Sloane Woodard added 13 points for the Lady Seahawks (19-5), and Megan Lewis followed with 12. Abbie Sewell's nine points led Boyd-Buchanan, which will play CSAS in the girls' consolation game Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Boyd-Buchanan 61, Silverdale Baptist 48:
Hall Allen opened the other boys' semifinal with back-to-back steals and layups to help his team take a 16-11 lead into the second quarter. The top-seeded Bucs extended their advantage in the period, leading by as much as 17 before Silverdale used several key 3s to get within 10.
Boyd-Buchanan's lead was 10 or more for almost the entire second half, although the Seahawks briefly cut it to nine after a 3-pointer from Nathan Keylon with a minute remaining in the third. The Bucs quickly stretched their margin back to double-digits, and controlled the fourth quarter to earn their first trip to the district final since 2003.
Austin Walker led the Bucs (21-7) with 22 points, and Justus McMillan followed with 13. Silverdale was led by John Hall's 16 points and will face CSAS for third place on Saturday.
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org
District 5-A tournament at Chattanooga State
GRACE ACADEMY GIRLS 53, ARTS & SCIENCES 50
Grace 16 10 8 19 -- 53
CSAS 9 14 12 15 -- 50
Grace (53) -- Mouw, Gill 2, Jemane, Jessica Bonner 12, Goodman 12, Maggie Compton 12, Sierra Nunley 11, Carter 3, McMasters 6.
CSAS (50) -- Little, Keturah Billen 12, McElvain 3, Mitchell 9, Samantha Maffett 12, Lee, Arica Montgomery 12, R. Billen, Smith 2.
3-point goals: Grace 5 (Compton 4, Bonner 1); CSAS 1 (Maffett).
GRACE ACADEMY 41, ARTS & SCIENCES 38
Grace 10 12 8 11 -- 41
CSAS 6 11 10 11 -- 38
Grace (41) -- Slack 2, Swanson, Hernandez 7, Smith 5, Blake Savard 20, Tisdale 1, Godsey, McQueen, Powell 6.
CSAS (38) -- Moorer, O'Hare 2, Woods, Brown, Carter, Taylor 8, Gordon 2, Elijah Davenport 16, Houston, Nick Moore 10.
3-point goals: Grace 5 (Savard 4, Hernandez); CSAS 2 (Davenport 2).
SILVERDALE BAPTIST GIRLS 69, BOYD-BUCHANAN 35
Boyd-Buchanan 10 10 6 9 -- 35
Silverdale Baptist 22 15 18 14 -- 69
Boyd-Buchanan (35) -- Abed 2, Payne 8, Smith, Balthrop 7, Reno, Davidson, Sewell 9, McCalla 3, Wright 2, Roland 4.
Silverdale (69) -- Alosi 2, Mariah Massengill 31, Megan Lewis 12, Sloane Woodard 13, Smith, Redmond 2, Sims 5, Skelton 4.
3-point goals: Silverdale 5 (Woodard 3, Massengill 2); Boyd-Buchanan 6 (Sewell 3, Payne 2, McCalla).
BOYD-BUCHANAN 61, SILVERDALE BAPTIST 48
Silverdale 11 12 13 12 -- 48
Boyd-Buchanan 16 18 13 14 -- 61
Silverdale (48) -- Delashmitt 1, Strawn 6, Nathan Keylon 11, Dye 1, Mossburg 8, Clements 5, John Hall 16.
Boyd-Buchanan (61) -- Allen 9, Justus McMillan 13, Cox 6, Austin Walker 22, Jenkins 6, Arendale, Nason 5.
3-point goals: Silverdale 5 (Keylon 3, Hall 2); Boyd-Buchanan 2 (Walker 2).