Unbeaten Blackman Beats Up On Outsized Ooltewah, 84-58, In Sub-State

Blaze's Thompson, Under Watchful Eye Of UT Coach, Sizzles With 24 Points, 11 Assists

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - by Larry Fleming

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Powerful Blackman looked down on Ooltewah.

Literally.

Enjoying a height advantage at every position and a distinct edge in talent, top-ranked and undefeated Blackman rolled past Ooltewah, 84-58, Monday night in Class AAA boys sub-state action and earned a second straight trip – albeit, 14 minutes and 6.7 miles across town – to the TSSAA state tournament.

“They’re undefeated for a reason,” Owls coach Jesse Nayadley said of the Blaze, 30-0 after finishing runner-up to Memphis East in the 2012 state tournament.

“They’re pretty good and we knew that coming in. At first we stayed with them a little bit. You can’t give them an inch and we gave them way too much – too many easy put-backs, offensive rebounds and second shots. You can’t do that.”

Blackman's starting lineup stood tall -- 6-feet, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. Ooltewah? The Owls starters are 5-9, 5-8, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

The Blaze, 56-4, in the past two seasons, will be a tough test for any other team reaching the state tournament that begins on March 13 at Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center. TSSAA will hold the tournament draw on March 9 at 10 a.m. Central Time.

Blackman players and coaches took turns cutting pieces of the net down for souvenirs.

Blaze coach Barry Wortman had his piece of string hanging from his right ear while watching his players take turns climbing a ladder to get to the net.

“First of all,” he said, “that’s an awfully good Ooltewah team, and as good as we’ve seen playing transition offense. But this means a lot to us. We put a poster on the locker room door when we started working last spring – Memphis East 57, Blackman 56 – to make our guys remember that score from last year with an 11-point lead in the quarter. That’s been our goal to get back state and make some noise.”

Ooltewah, which finished runner-up to Bradley Central in the Region 3-AAA tournament that forced the road trip to Blackman, ends the season at 19-11. The Owls earned a berth in the 2012 state tourney, but lost to Memphis Central, 67-54, in the quarterfinals.

“I’m trying not to think about this being my last game,” said Ooltewah’s senior guard Antonio Jackson, who scored 10 points.

With University of Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin watching from the stands for a second straight game and third time this season, Darius Thompson, a 6-foot-4-inch senior guard powered the Blaze with a game-high 24 points, 16 coming in the second half. He also had 11 assists and five steals.

The supeerbly skilled Thompson, who de-committed to Vanderbilt and reopened his recruiting, said Wortman told him and his teammates at halftime to stop settling for jump shots and attack the basket.

He did, and they did. And the Owls were almost helpless to keep the Blaze from blazing out to a 67-46 lead after three quarters.

“Yeah,” the silky smooth Thompson said, “coach told me to attack more. I got more aggressive and took advantage of our height. We all did.”

Thompson was 4-of-11 from the field in the first half, but buckled the Owls’ defense with hard drives to the basket that were so fluid they looked effortless. He made two quick layups to start the third quarter, pushing the Blaze’s lead to 48-34.

After Ooltewah cut the lead to 55-46 on Daaron Maston’s bucket, Blackman’s Josh Maher made back-to-back layups – both with assists from Thompson – and Thompson drove the lane for a dunk and Blackman had a 61-44 advantage with 2:33 left in the quarter.

“When they’re up 15 or 20, it’s prime time for them,” Nayadley said. “They’re having fun and everything’s going for them. You’re in the sub-state but you’re playing up here. That’s why you try and win that region final, just so you don’t hit the road.”

With Blackman up 72-52 after another Thompson layup and he followed that with a dunk, Jauan Jennings got a steal and easy transition layup. Thompson got a steal near mid-court, streak to the other end and slammed down a power jam that shook the house.

“We picked it up in the second half,” said Thompson, who scored 23 points in the Region 4-AAA title game against Siegel with Alabama coach Anthony Grant and the Vols’ Martin, plus a Florida State assistant, in attendance.

For most of the game, Ooltewah’s 5-9 Jackson guarded the slender Thompson, who weighs 175 pounds.

It was a tough assignment.

“I played AAU ball for five years and school – high school and middle school – ball six years now,” Jackson said, “and he (Thompson) is probably in the top three that I’ve played against. He knew how to use his height advantage. When he went to the hole I had a hard time trying to get up there to block the ball like I did against Bradley and Walker Valley.”

Ooltewah’s Ben Snider, who scored a team-high 16 points but only two after suffering a left ankle injury with 2:27 left in the third quarter, had a different take on Thompson.

“He was good but not what people made out to be,” the Owls’ junior guard said. “He didn’t show me anything that set him apart from anybody else we’ve played.”

Snider, however, showed a lot of post-game respect for the Blackman team.

“They’re the best team we’ve seen this year,” he said.

Ooltewah got off to a nice start, building an 11-4 first-quarter lead, but three minutes later Maher’s layup off an assist by that do-it-all guy Thompson, tied the game at 14-14.

The Blaze led 18-16 at the first break.

Snider’s 3 from the right corner pulled the Owls within 27-22 midway through the second quarter. The Blaze, who beat a tough Siegel four times this season – that’s the same Siegel that routed Bradley Central, 59-38, on Monday, went on a 13-5 run and the margin grew to 40-24.

Trailing 50-36 in the third, Jackson drained a 3, Jacqueze Robinson missed a 3-pointer but was fouled and dropped in three free throws, Snider drove the baseline for a layup and Maston hit a bucket to slice the Blaze lead to 55-46.

At that point, Blackman launched an all-out assault on the lane. Ooltewah’s defense was unable to withstand the blitz.

“We played our hearts out,” Jackson said. “Nobody gave up. We kept rebounding, kept shooting and kept hustling. We just came up short.”

That was the theme all game long – short.

Jennings scored 18 points for Blackman and Maher added 10.

Jacqueze Robinson had 13 points for the Owls and Maston finished with 11.

The Owls hit seven 3s, two each by Jackson, Robinson and Snider.

They wanted – no, they needed – more.

“Our goal tonight was to hit 12 to 15,” Nayadley said, “and we’re capable of doing that. In the first half (the Owls hit six 3s before intermission), take away their second chances, we’re maybe tied at halftime. We knew we had to shoot 3s because we weren’t going to get a lot of points inside.

“After halftime, it just ballooned on us.”

Sub-State Summary

Ooltewah                16 18 14 10 – 58

Blackman               18 26 23 17 – 84

Ooltewah (58) – Antonio Jackson 10, Jacqueze Robinson 13, Ware 6, Ben Snider 16, Daaron Maston 11, King 2, Bass, Presley, Hasanbegovic.

Blackman (84) – Cousin 8, McMiller 6, Hart 6, Dowdy 8, Jauan Jennings 18, Darius Thompson 24, Coleman 4, Josh Maher 10, Rogan, Pierce, Henry.

3-Point Goals: Ooltewah 7 (Jackson 2, Robinson 2, Snider 2, Maston 1); Blackman 4 (Dowdy 2, Thompson, Cousin).

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)


Pigeon Forge Wins Second A-AA State Duals Title

FRANKLIN – Pigeon Forge won the Class A-AA State Duals title for the second straight year as they beat the Hixson Wildcats in the final, 36-23. Hixson had finished in third place the last four years and Wildcat coach Garrick Hall was happy to not finish there again, but he would have liked a better result than the runner-up finish. The Tigers bolted to a 17-0 lead with a pin, ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Finishes Fourth In A-AA After Loss To Alcoa

FRANKLIN -- Notre Dame's wrestling team came to the Williamson County Agricultural Expo Center ready to fight Saturday morning and it took all of 32 minutes to eliminate Martin Luther King by a lopsided 70-12 final score. It took just a little bit longer in the second round, but the Fighting Irish prevailed in that one as well with a 47-27 win over Greeneville, setting ... (click for more)

Appeals Court Rules Against WWTA In Lawsuit Brought By Apartment Complex Over $8 Monthly Charges To Units

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of an apartment complex that sued the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Authority (WWTA) over an $8 monthly charge per apartment unit for preparing private service laterals. The court overturned a granting of summary judgment in favor of WWTA by former Judge Jackie Bolton. The appeals court said American Heritage Apartments, ... (click for more)

1 Dies In House Fire In Rhea County

Rhea County Fire Department officials said one person died in an early-morning house fire on Saturday. The call came at about 6:30 a.m. The brick residence is on Fisher Road. S tate arson investigators were on their way. (click for more)

It's Time To Insure Tennessee - And Response

Tennessee has a problem.  What is the value of saving the lives of 1,000 Tennesseans each year? That is exactly what can be expected if 176,000 Tennesseans gain health insurance through Insure Tennessee. A New England Journal of Medicine study showed that expansion of Medicaid was associated with a 6% reduction in yearly mortality for people in the 34-65 age group. Statistically, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What About The Ashes?

I attended my fifth funeral in the month of January the other day and, while I wish a lot of my friends would hang around a little longer, I was amused by the conversation in the pew before the service began. The question was “ … then what do you do with the ashes?” More and more people are being cremated and asking their loved ones to scatter their ashes -- more properly called ... (click for more)