The first game of the day at Howard's Henry Bowles Gymnasium was the best as action in the District 6-AA tournament moved to a central location for the final two days.
The last three games were blowouts, but both of the top seeded teams advanced for both the boys and girls.
Second-seeded Brainerd nipped third-seed Hixson in the first girls game by a 36-35 final.
Top-seeded Central's girls came on strong to beat Tyner by a 51-45 in the second game before second-seeded Brainerd pinned a 62-42 defeat on East Ridge in the first boys' semifinal. Then in the finale, top-seeded Tyner let its defense do the talking as the Rams outlasted a never-say-die Central team by a 78-55 final.
Tuesday's action will begin with the two consolation games, including Tyner and Hixson girls at 4:30 followed by the East Ridge-Central boys at 6. Then the two championships will be determined with Central facing Brainerd in the girls game at 7:30 before Tyner-Brainerd lock horns in the last game around 9.
All of these teams will advance to the Region 3-AA tournament, which will begin with play-in games at the higher seeds later this week before finishing with the semifinals and championship games at East Ridge.
BRAINERD GIRLS 36, HIXSON 35: You won't find any two teams any more evenly matched than these two, but the Lady Panthers seem to have Hixson's number as they've won all three games this year by a combined total of four points.
The latest game was as good if not better than the first two.
Hixson had the lead for most of the game with a 13-12 advantage after the first quarter and then 20-16 at intermission.
Virginia Rivers sank a baseline jumper at the buzzer to give the Lady Wildcats a 29-25 lead after three quarters, but that's when Jamee Ward took charge.
The spunky sophomore, who just may be the best female player in the Chattanooga area, scored seven straight points to open the fourth quarter as the Lady Panthers regained the lead at 32-29 with 5:55 to play.
A free throw by T.T. Staten got Hixson to within 32-30 with 4:24 to go before Jameka Brown converted a three-point play to give Brainerd a 35-30 edge with just under four minutes to go.
Staten scored on a putback before Cierra Taylor knocked down a 3 from the wing as Hixson knotted the score with 3:08 remaining.
Neither team scored again until the final 10 seconds. The Lady Panthers gained possession with about 90 seconds to play and did a good job of running the clock down. Then with the game on the line and those last few seconds ticking away, Ward took matters into her own hands.
She was fouled on a drive along the baseline with 9.9 seconds to play. She missed the first free throw before making the second and that turned out to be the winning point as Hixson's final shot was way off the mark.
"It's always a dogfight when we play Hixson, but that's two evenly-matched teams," said Brainerd coach Tyrus Ward after it ended.
"Jamee knows her role and we wanted the ball in her hands at the end. I'm just glad she made the second free throw, but we're happy to be in the championship game tomorrow night.
"We were lucky to still be in the game after Jamee picked up three fouls in the first half. We also knew that Hixson had plenty of time at the end of the game, but we forced them to take the shot we wanted them to take. What we didn't want was to commit a foul at the end," Ward nodded.
Hixson coach Matt Smith was hoping for a different look at the end.
"I'm not sure we wanted to take a long 3 at the end, but she got a good look and took it. Maybe we should have worked a little harder to get the ball in the paint at the end, but we still had a chance to win and didn't.
"I liked the way we got the Ward girl in foul trouble in the first half, but we should have made more free throws. We knew she would get hot and she did, but we made her take tough shots. This is our third loss to them by a total of four points," Smith shook his head.
Ward finished with 19 points to lead the Brainerd attack, including eight in that frantic fourth quarter. Brown was also in double figures with 10.
Staten finished with 12 points to lead Hixson while Taylor and Rivers were next with 10 apiece.
Brainerd improves to 17-7 overall while Hixson is now 16-9.
CENTRAL GIRLS 51, TYNER 34: The Lady Rams came out like they planned to win this game and even had a 12-11 lead after the first quarter, but that's when the Lady Pounders got untracked and started playing like the top team in the district.
Outscoring the Lady Rams by an 18-5 margin in the second quarter and 13-9 in the third, Central slowly pulled away for its 17th victory against five defeats.
"Tyner did a good job at first as we weren't expecting man-to-man defense, but I thought we responded well," said Central coach Rick May after it ended.
"We live and die by creating chaos on defense and that was the key in the second and third quarters, but Kiki Ransom came in and gave us a spark and was our unsung hero, even though she didn't score a single point. But I'm pleased with how we played after we made those adjustments," he added.
Sandrea Sylman got her average with 19 points to lead the Lady Pounders. She also had four steals.
Shamiya Jones was next with 13 points, including seven in that turn-around second period. Rebekah Hill was the other key to that second-quarter rally as she scored all eight of her points during that span.
Alexus Mitchell also had eight points for the winners, in addition to five rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
Porchia Turner was the leader for Tyner with 16 points while Marquiesha Conyers was next with six.
BRAINERD BOYS 62, EAST RIDGE 42: The Pioneers played without several starters and it showed as they simply couldn't match Brainerd's intensity on either end.
The Panthers had the upper hand at 11-8 when the first quarter ended, but the difference was 28-16 at the break. A 10-0 run to start the third quarter was the straw that broke the camel's back as that lead quickly grew to 22 points following a short jumper in the lane by Tyree Stubbs with 5:19 showing in the third.
Brainerd's biggest lead of 25 points came just a couple of minutes later when Marquis Tipton scored five straight as the difference was 43-18 with 3:12 left in the third.
The Pioneers had trimmed it to 21 when the third quarter ended and East Ridge played on even terms in the fourth, but Brainerd's lead was simply too much to overcome.
"I wasn't very happy with our defense in the first half, but our intensity picked up in the second half," said Brainerd coach Levar Brown after his team had improved to 20-5.
"My first team didn't show up tonight, but I liked the intensity of that second group. We just need to know that we have to play our hearts out on every possession. East Ridge just doesn't quit and like I said the other day, they're the most dangerous team in the district. But I'm looking forward to Tuesday night," Brown nodded with a smile.
Stubbs had 16 points to lead Brainerd as the Panthers had three players in double figures. Orlando Moore was next with 13 while Tipton finished with 12.
Kolbe King was the scoring leader for East Ridge with 13 points, including four buckets from beyond the arc. Cordarius Talley was next with 10 while Kevin Blair played hard off the bench and finished with nine.
TYNER BOYS 78, CENTRAL 55: This one was close for a while, but once the Rams started rolling, there wasn't much the Pounders could do to stop them.
Senior Sadik Spence, the scoring leader for Tyner who is also their emotional leader as well, didn't start and didn't enter the game until the start of the second quarter.
Central was ahead at that point by a 13-11 margin, but Spence took matters into his own hands literally as Tyner slowly pulled away.
Tre Tiller had scored on a layup with 56 seconds to play as Central's lead was 33-29, but Spence converted a three-point play 23 seconds later and then canned a long 3 at the buzzer as Tyner finished the half on an 8-0 run.
Spence scored 11 points in the second quarter, including six in the final 33 seconds as the difference was 37-33 at intermission.
A 12-2 run by the Rams to start the second half put Tyner ahead to stay. Spence added five more in the third as the margin stretched to 13 at 56-43 with eight minutes to play.
Then in the fourth with Central trying its best to mount a comeback, Spence was all over the court, forcing steals on defense, grabbing key rebounds and scoring at every turn as he added a dozen more to finish with a game-high 28 points.
"It's hard to beat the same team three times in one season, but every night we get the other team's best effort," said Tyner coach Gerald Harris.
"We didn't handle the ball very well at first as we had a dozen turnovers in the first half and we just didn't play very good transition defense. Our press was conservative in the first half, but we picked it up in the second half.
"We hit some big shots and some of them were easy ones, but that was a direct result of our defensive intensity. But tomorrow will be a tough game," Harris said in reference to the game with Brainerd.
While Spence was tops for Tyner with a season-high 28 points, Daaron Mastin, Kevin Cameron and Dequan Strickland were also in double figures for the Rams with 10 points apiece. DeVante Jones was next with nine.
Spence also led the Rams with seven assists while Alex Watkins and Cameron both grabbed eight rebounds.
Jamichael Poole was the high-point man for Central with 11 points. Tre Tiller followed with eight while Ryan Montgomery, Jerome Stewart and Rodney Benford all finished with six points.
HIXSON 13 7 9 6 -- 35
BRAINERD 12 4 9 11 -- 36
HIXSON (35) -- Taylor 10, Staten 12, Rivers 10, Stanfield 3, Johnson.
BRAINERD (36) -- Ward 19, Brown 10, Walker 3, Price, Ashley, Calloway 3.
3-POINT GOALS: Hixson 3 (Taylor 2, Stanfield); Brainerd 2 (Ward 2).
TYNER 12 5 9 8 -- 34
CENTRAL 11 18 13 9 -- 51
TYNER (34) -- Bedford, Parks 2, McLemore, Conyers 6, Wilkes 2, Christopher 3, Smith 5, Montgomery, Rodgers, Turner 16.
CENTRAL (51) -- S. Jones 13, Ransom, Rogers, Davis 2, Sylman 19, Mitchell 8, Hixson 2, Grampp, Feist, N. Jones, Hill 8, Miller, East, Evers, Rively.
3-POINT GOALS: Tyner none; Central 4 (S. Jones, Sylman, Hill 2).
EAST RIDGE 8 8 9 17 -- 42
BRAINERD 11 17 18 16 -- 62
EAST RIDGE (42) -- King 13, Tillery 2, Hughes, Talley 10, Jones 7, Garmany, Blair 9.
BRAINERD (62) -- Stewart, Shropshire, Tipton 12, Evans 7, Otis 3, Sow, Stubbs 16, Bass, Moore 13, Lee 6, Moore 5, Melvin.
3-POINT GOALS: East Ridge 4 (King 4); Brainerd 3 (Tipton, Lee 2).
CENTRAL 13 20 10 12 -- 55
TYNER 11 26 19 22 -- 78
CENTRAL (55) -- Montgomery 6, Tr. Tiller 8, Billingsley 2, Te. Tiller 4, Stewart 6, Swafford 4, Poole 11, Boyd 2, Johnson 4, Long 2.
TYNER (78) -- Spence 28, Watson 3, Mastin 10, Cameron 10, Watkins 4, Bonds, Howard 2, Jones 9, Wilson 2, Strickland, Hardwick 10.
3-POINT GOALS: Central 2 (Poole 2); Tyner 10 (Spence 5, Mastin 2, Jones 3).
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)