Slow-starting Brentwood Academy scored 11 first-half points.
Unfortunately for Baylor, the Eagles found an answer for their scoring woes in the nick of time.
Senior K.J. Blue and sophomore Parker Suedekum combined for 16 points in the fourth quarter, senior Brandon Parker hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with under a minute to play and the Eagles rallied to defeat the Red Raiders, 58-55, Saturday night in a Division II-AA East/Middle Region game at Jimmy Duke Arena.
“We’ve lost a number of games just like that,” Eagles coach Hubie Smith said. “We’ve been so close so many times that hopefully this will kick-start us for the tournament.”
The Eagles (11-13, 4-5) can nail down the No. 4 seed and Baylor would be No. 5 for the playoffs with a victory over Father Ryan on Tuesday. If they lose, however, the two teams will flip spots in the bracket.
Either way, Baylor (14-8, 3-4), which played without starters Gage Upshaw and Spencer King, will host a playoff game next Saturday. McCallie, the No. 1 seed after Friday’s 59-43 win over Father Ryan, has a first-round bye and won’t play until Feb. 22.
Brentwood Academy’s furious 31-point, fourth-quarter rally spoiled a special occasion for Baylor senior Amedeo Giussani, who scored a game-high 22 points with his father, Jacques, in the arena after making the trip from Switzerland to see his son perform on Senior Night.
It was Jacques Giussani’s third time to seen his son play in the United States. He also attended games last season at McCallie and earlier this season at a Christmas tournament at Chattanooga State.
“It was a big deal for me,” said Giussani, who drained four of Baylor’s five 3-pointers, three in the first half when the Red Raiders built a 22-11 lead. “With my dad coming all the way from Switzerland, it was emotional and exciting seeing him here. It was something special.”
Giussani said his father is scheduled to leave Chattanooga on Friday, but will try to talk him into staying through Saturday and watch the Red Raiders’ 7 p.m. playoff game against either Pope John Paul II or Father Ryan at Duke Arena.
Giussani started the game with a 3 from out front, added two more 3-pointers and a 14-foot jumper as he scored 11 of Baylor’s first 17 points. He hit another 3 in the third period and added eight points in the final period.
“Sure, I wanted to play well tonight,” Giussani said, “but it’s not that I went into the game with a different mindset. I try to do my best every time I go on the court.”
The Eagles trailed for 31 minutes and 7 seconds before Parker’s jumper from the right corner produced their first lead at 55-54 with 53 seconds remaining.
Blue made four of the Eagles’ six 3s, all in the second half with three coming in the explosive final period. Suedekum scored seven of his 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Suedekum, Gavin Schoenwald and Jeremiah Oatsvall each added a free throw over the final 23.3 for the Eagles. Schoenwald, an eighth grader, and Oatsvall, a freshman, started Saturday’s game.
“We’re extremely young,” said Smith, who has seven other sophomores and freshmen on his roster. “We’ve made a lot of progress. We weren’t competing early in the season and now we’re competing in every game. Tonight, somehow we found a way to win and I’m very proud of the kids.”
Baylor scored just two points in the final 2:21 – free throws by Sammy Lupas and Matt Clendenen, who scored 19 points, 10 in the fourth quarter. Those same two players missed 3-point attempts in the last five seconds.
Blue finished with 12 points. Schoenwald scored 11 points.
Brentwood Academy made five field goals in the first half, just two in a four-point second quarter.
With Giussani leading the way Baylor had a double-digit lead at halftime and appeared to have the game completely in hand.
Giussani’s 3 from the right wing gave Baylor a 28-17 advantage in the third period.
A quick 6-0 run – Blue’s 3, Jordan James’ free throw and Ed Wilks’ layup – cut the Red Raiders’ lead to five points.
“We had a little come-to-Jesus talk at halftime and our kids responded in the second half,” Smith said.
Lupas’ bank shot in the lane, Austin Maize’s 3-pointer – his only points in the game – and Clendenen’s jumper pushed Baylor’s lead to 36-27 going into the fourth quarter.
Maize and Adam Brogdon, both juniors, got rare starts with Upshaw and King not dressed.
The Red Raiders were still up 38-29 when made a quick-strike move.
Suedekum made two layups off Baylor turnovers in a seven-second span and never was more than 5 feet from the basket. Then Schoenwald turned a Clendenen turnover into two free throws and suddenly Brentwood Academy trailed by 38-36 with 5:58 left.
“We turned the ball over at inopportune times,” Baylor coach Austin Clark said, “and that’s what pressure (defense) does. They stay on you the whole game and we had a limited bench depth-wise tonight, but I was proud of our kids’ effort. (The pressure) is tough and you have to face it for 32 minutes, not 31.
“It won’t be a problem unless we don’t learn from it.”
Giussani’s layup gave Baylor a 40-36 lead, but Blue’s left-wing 3 pulled the Eagles to within a point.
Clendenen converted a three-point play, the Eagles’ Tyler McNair hit a free throw after being fouled on a putback attempt, Clendenen made another three-point play, Schoenwald scored on a putback, Giussani hit a free throw and Clendenen drove the lane and the Red Raiders had breathing room at 49-42 at the 3:55 mark.
Blue dropped another 3 on Baylor and Giussani answered with two free throws. Schoenwald hit a layup and the ever-active Clendenen put back Giussani’s off-the-mark 3-pointer and the Red Raiders’ lead was 53-47 with 2:22 on the clock.
McNair’s bucket and a 3 by Blue pulled Brentwood Academy to within 53-52.
At the other end, Lupas hit 1 of 2 charity tosses with 64 seconds left.
Eleven seconds later, Taylor put the Eagles ahead for the first time with his clutch 3-point bomb from the right corner.
“We were up by 11 points against Ensworth in the third quarter (Friday) night,” Smith said, “and ended up losing. It was a crushing defeat and we were flat coming out tonight. We have had a hard time putting a whole game together.
“We were terrible in the first half, but played beautifully in the second half, especially that fourth quarter.”
Clark said the Eagles went against their offensive grain to punishing Baylor from the perimeter.
“They’re not a 3-point shooting team,” he said, “although they made that one to put them up. If they don’t make that shot, we get a rebound and blah, blah, blah. Their strong suit is penetration and kicking it down to the big guys or finishing with a layup.”
Clark told players returning their uniforms to the equipment room after the game he would not hold practice on Monday.
“I don’t think practice would be beneficial,” he said. “They laid it on the line tonight and I feel for them. There’s no sense in coming back (Monday) and rehashing it. I’ll give them a day to relax and then get ready for Saturday.
“And there’s no reason beating them to death over this game. I don’t do that. I’d more likely practice if we had won playing poorly than after a loss with our hearts on the floor.”
Brentwood Academy’s girls defeated Baylor, 49-42.
Brentwood Academy 7 4 16 31 – 58
Baylor 12 10 14 19 – 55
Brentwood Academy (58) – Jeremiah Oatsvall 6, Br. Taylor 3, K.J. Blue 12, Parker Suedekum 10, Wilks 4, Bl. Taylor, T. Taylor, Hopkins, Gavin Schoenwald 11, McNair 6, Mathews, James 6.
Baylor (55) – Matt Clendenen 19, Amedeo Giussani 22, Lupas 7, Maize 3, Brogdon, Seaberg 4, Jump, Riggins.
3-Point Goals – Brentwood Academy 6 (Blue 4, Br. Taylor, Oatsvall); Baylor 5 (Giussani 4, Maize).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)