When the Brainerd junior varsity basketball schedule finished a few weeks back, sophomore Tyree Stubbs was one of those rewarded for a season well done by earning a promotion to the varsity roster.
Saturday night at Hixson High School, that promotion may have saved the season for the Panthers in the District 6-AA tournament.
Meeting red-hot Tyner in the day's final semifinal, the Panthers built up a 19-point lead early in the third quarter, yet had to hold their collective breath when JeMicah Bowman's game-tying
3-pointer rimmed out just before the buzzer to ensure a 66-63 victory.
That puts coach Robert High's Panthers right where they want to be -- in Tuesday night's finals against the Howard Tigers. Howard needed less than three quarters for dangerous Central to raise the white flag in a 71-44 drubbing. Saturday's losers will meet for the all-important third place game Monday night at Hixson.
The girls seeds held form as No. 1 East Hamilton knocked off Tyner 54-42 and No. 2 Howard outlasted Brainerd 55-49. Their consolations and championships will precede the boys' Monday and Tuesday at 6 p.m., all at Hixson.
Foul trouble the last two days has had starting center Orlando Moore spending more time next to High on the bench than on the court. But for the second straight day, Stubbs has come off the bench to minimize the damage. Saturday's contribution was 13 points and nine rebounds, with five points coming down the stretch. His two free throws with 20 seconds to play put the Panthers up 64-61.
"The best part about this is, he's just out there having fun," High said with a winning grin. "He wasn't with us at all all year, but we moved him up from the b-team and he's made the most of it. He's just a happy kid."
Stubbs had seven points and eight rebounds in Friday's must-win quarterfinal at East Ridge. But a big difference in Saturday's inside game for the Panthers was Devonte Cooper bouncing
back in a big way. Despite foul trouble, Cooper was the Panthers' go-to guy much of the night with 20 point, 13 rebounds and a pair of assists.
"We did a good job against a very good team today," High pointed out. "We played well for four quarters, something we didn't do Friday and haven't done much of lately. Giving up a lead to Tyner means they came back."
Tyner's energetic playmaker Sadik Spence provided most of the push in the late going, finishing the game with 20 points. His steal and two foul shots brought the Rams almost all the way back as they closed the gap to 62-61 with 22.3 seconds left. Stubbs answered with his two foul shots, LaMarcus Rollins powered home a layup for Tyner with 15 seconds to play to return the gap to one. But the final points came on free throws from sophomore Marques Tipton with only 12.4 seconds left.
The Rams had final possession, and Bowman got what he wanted from behind the arc. The rims favored Brainerd this night, however. Jay Besley posted 10 points with five assists for the winners, while Bristen Bridgemann scored 11 for the balanced Rams, who had five players score eight or more.
Central Starters MIA In Second Half Of Loss
By far the most impressive of the road teams in the tournament's do-or-die games, the Purple Pounders seemed primed to pick up with Howard where they left off with East Hamilton.
Such was not the case.
Big Brandon Walters attacked the rim with ease, scoring 21 of his 25 points in the first half. Guard Shailique Cameron, who has perfected the old two-handed set shot and made it a modern weapon, hit four 3-pointers and scored 14.
Halftime did nothing to stop the bleeding, as Cameron's fourth trey opened up a 45-20 lead. Central coach Rick Rogers had seen enough. All five starters, including four seniors who have
started for the coach for four years, were exiled to the bench to stay while he evaluated his freshman team for the final quarter-and-a-half.
This left Howard coach Walt McGary in an awkward position, to be sure.
"When he subbed five for five, I knew he was basically giving up," McGary said. "I will never embarrass a kid by running the score up. So I spent the rest of the game experimenting with combinations I haven't used this season."
With usual Howard sixth man LoRenzo McCauley in a walking cast witih a bad ankle sprain, Rashad Brummitt was the most active beneficiary with 12 points, all in the secod half. No central player reached double figures with David Holley having the best go of things with eight points, second to Brian Billingsley's nine.
Howard Girls Endure, Survive Brainerd Push
The Howard Lady Tigers have been their own worst enemy much of the year with a string of nightmarish nights from the foul line keeping them from building an even better season. Saturday's semifinal win required them to make just enough (11 of 29 with five lane violations) to survive.
But the day's biggest plays were on the defensive end, as Tyreshia Rollins, who had a half-dozen steals to augment a strong 17-point showing that included 3-of-3 from the line -- including two clinchers coming with 20 seconds left.
"Tyreshia brings chemistry to our lineup. She's the glue," said Howard coach Ashley Wilbur. "When she steps up, she makes everybody better."
Deroneasha Smartt led the Lady Tigers with 27 points, 21 coming in the first half. But Smartt's woes at the foul line included hitting only 2 of 12 in the game with three line violations. But Wilbur credited her with not losing her focus.
"Our motto all year has been, 'Above all else, keep your head.'" Wilbur said.
Freshman Jamee Ward led the Lady Panthers with 21 points, followed by Anisha Douglas with 11. Three Brainerd players fouled out -- one re-entering the game unexpectedly and drawing a technical foul.
Pressure, Well-Applied, Cuts Off Lady Rams
The Lady Hurricanes, seeking a third straight trip to the sub-state, stifled the Tyner offense with a frustrating press that kept Tyner at bay much of the day. But early in the fourth quarter, a
sudden surge brought the game to a 41-40 crossroads.
Lady Hurricane center Juliette Harp, who had foul trouble all night, answered with a clutch field goal with a foul. Freshman Meci Wood followed suit with a layup and the top seed would go on for a clinching 12-2 run to close our the game.
"With the fouls, we had some different personnel in there and kind of got rushed," East Hamilton coach Derek Morris said of the near-comeback by the Lady Rams. "But they allowed us to regroup and bought us some time, enough time.
"We might have gotten a little worn down, but the reason we run hills in September is to wear you down, too. Mentally, I thought they looked more tired than us."
Lexi Zackery, who hit a pair of 3s, led East Hamilton with 15 points, while Hayleigh Moon posted 12. Delvay Hines had 14 to lead the Lady Rams.
District 6-AA at Hixson
Tyner 12 10 12 8 -- 42
East Hamilton 14 13 14 13 -- 54
TYNER (42) -- Turner 4, Juanita Montgomery 10, Smith 7, McElvain 5, Parks, Delvay Hines 14, Roberts 2.
EAST HAMILTON (54) -- J. Caudle 7, Harp 9, Woods, K. Caudle 7, Lexi Zackery 15, Hayleigh Moon 12, Wood 4.
3-point goals: Tyner 2 (Montgomery 2); EH 2 (Zackery 2). Records: Tyner 12-16; East Hamilton 21-9.
Brainerd 9 13 12 15 -- 49
Howard 10 18 12 15 -- 55
BRAINERD (49) -- Jamee Ward 21, Anisha Douglas 11, Walker 4, Woods 3, Rowland 5, Ellis 3, Robinson 2.
HOWARD (55) -- Robinson 5, Deroneasha Smartt 27, Tyreshia Rollins 17, C. Smartt, King 2, Davis, Green 4, Smith.
3-point goals: Brainerd 4 (Ward 3, Douglas); Howard 1 (Rollins). Records: Brainerd 13-12; Howard 14-7.
Central 6 9 12 17 -- 44
Howard 18 16 24 13 -- 71
CENTRAL (44) -- Swafford 2, Tiller 7, Billingsley 9, Cobb 2, Hill, Trammell 3, Hayes, Montgomery 7, Morgan 3, Stewart 2, Smith, Holley 8, Lewis.
HOWARD (71) -- Smith, Shailique Cameron 14, Walton, Harris 6, Brandon Walters 25, Rashad Brummitt 1, Young 9, Byrd 5, Brown, Norwood, Wynn 6, Lewis.
3-point goals: Central 4 (Billingsley, Holley, Morgan, Trammell); Howard 4 (Cameron 4). Records: Central 15-9; Howard 22-5.
Brainerd 20 15 18 13 -- 66
Tyner 6 15 19 23 -- 63
BRAINERD (66) -- Jay Besley 10, Tipton 8, Demt. Otis, Demr. Otis 3, Glenn 4, D. Moore 2, O. Moore 6, Devante Cooper 20, Tyree Stubbs 13.
TYNER (63) -- Sadik Spence 20, D. Rollins 2, L. Rollins 2, Bowman 8, Bristen Bridgemann 11, Watkins 8, Watson, Hardwick 9, Waller, James 3.
3-point goals: Brainerd 1 (Besley); Tyner 2 (James, Spence). Records: Brainerd 14-11; Tyner 18-7.