The Marques Tipton that Chattanooga basketball fans may well be seeing the next two years was on display Saturday night in the Region 3-AA boys tournament.
The Brainerd sophomore, who has held his own with the city's best since Day One as a freshman, was sensational in the Panthers' 74-56 first-round win over a talented and confident Sequoyah team. His 25-point performance kept coach Robert High's perfect record intact going into Tuesday's banner headline battle with McMinn Central.
Tipton and the Panthers made their intentions clear in the game's first 30 seconds. Two passes after the opening tip, Tipton let fly from left of the circle for a game-opening 3-pointer. After a turnover, he moved to the other side and launched another for a 6-0 lead.
High, who has never failed to reach a region tournament or lose a first-round game in 37 years as Brainerd coach, said that Tipton has been building towards a night like Saturday's in recent weeks.
"He's been scoring more consistently lately," High said. "Earlier in the year, it seemed like we had to remind him to shoot the ball. We did not have to remind him tonight."
Despite Tipton's early heroics, the visiting Chiefs brought some potent offense of their own to town and quickly tied the game at 13. But just when you thought that the battle had been joined, Brainerd, in High's words, "remembered how to play defense" and went on a 15-0 rampage that included six more points from Tipton.
"Our guys know this is do or die time," High said. "I really like the way our quarterback (point guard Jay Besley) moved the ball around and got everyone involved."
Besley ended the night with 11 points and seven assists for the 15-12 Panthers, but those assists in large part served to revive their junior center Orlando Moore, who was largely MIA during the district tournament just completed. In fact, it took about 30 seconds for Moore to have a better night than any of the district games as he stole a midcourt pass on Sequohya's first possession to set up a Tipton trey and powered in an offensive rebound the next time down the court.
Moore doubled up on the Chiefs with 18 points and 15 rebounds, providing the Panthers with much of their inside game that Sequoyah had no answer for.
The Chiefs (16-13) tended to rely on the long bomb for much of its offense, getting four 3-pointers from Shon Stevens as part of his 14-point night. Andrew Millsaps hit a pair, but he scored his 26 points from just about everywhere.
However, the Panthers' high-gear offense was scarcely slowed at any point by the Chiefs, so the visitors were never able to battle to get with double-digits the rest of the night..
Region 3-AA at Brainerd
Sequoyah 13 8 16 20 -- 56
Brainerd 25 12 19 18 -- 74
SEQUOYAH (56) -- Andrew Millsaps 26, B. King 3, Show Stevens 14, Strickland 2, Hawkins 7, Harmon, T. King, Denham 2, Schaffer 2, Abernathy.
BRAINERD (74) -- Jay Besley 11, Marques Tipton 25, Glenn 2, Orlando Moore 18, Cooper 6, Stewart, Otis, Moore 2, Stubbs 8, Lee 2.
3-point goals: Sequoyah 7 (Stevens 4, Millsaps 2, B. King); Brainerd 5 (Tipton 4, Besley). Records: Sequoyah 16-13; Brainerd 15-12.