MURFREESBORO -- There's never an easy first-round game in the BlueCross State Basketball Championships.
Just ask anyone who plays for the Boyd-Buchanan Buccaneers.
Facing the Booker T. Washington Warriors in the Class A quarterfinals here at MTSU's Murphy Center Wednesday night, the Bucs got off to a great start before falling by a final score of 72-54.
With the win, the Warriors improve to 27-7 while the Bucs finish an outstanding season at 28-4. It also marks the end of high school basketball for seven Boyd-Buchanan seniors, who had a combined record of 67-26 over the last three years, including 53-12 the last two.
But as the old saying goes, good things have to come to an end and that was the case for the Bucs as their opponent from Memphis was simply bigger, quicker and just a tad bit more athletic. They also shoot free throws extremely well.
"We've never been a big team, so it really wasn't a surprise that we were playing a team bigger than us, but I'm just sad that the journey is over," said Buccaneer head coach Cole Rose after the final horn had sounded.
"They have a very good team and they were what we thought they would be, but we did a lot of things right. I liked where we were and what we were doing, but they guarded us really well in the second half and we didn't get many second chances.
"When we fell behind in the third quarter, it was tough to catch up. But I'm really pleased with our effort as my guys gave it everything they had. We've had a great year, but we're in the process of building a great program. We've set a precedent for our school in addition to our team," Rose nodded.
Warrior coach Antonio Harris knew that his team's opponent was pretty good, but he also knew that if his team played their brand of basketball, things would be okay.
"We knew they had a sound basketball team with several outstanding shooters. They got off to a great start, but we had to play solid defense and get our hands in their passing lanes. Defense and rebounding were the keys for us, but we have six seniors who knew this might be their last game, so they stepped up to the plate.
"And I knew that if we played our brand of basketball, we had a pretty good chance of winning," Harris concluded.
Zach Jenkins scored on a reverse layup before Q.D. Cox scored following a steal on the inbounds pass. Hall Allen canned a 3 from the wing and the Bucs had a 7-0 lead after the first 70 seconds.
The Warriors came back to score nine of the next 11 points, but back-to-back 3s from Justus McMillan allowed Boyd-Buchanan to take a 17-15 lead when the first quarter ended.
The Bucs kept the lead until Derwin Fitch converted a three-point play the old-fashioned way with 3:13 to play as the game was tied at 24-all. Angelo Smith followed with a 3 some 90 seconds later as the Warriors had the lead for the first time at 27-24.
Jeremiah Nason converted a three-point play for the Bucs with 30 seconds remaining in the half, but the Warriors got a free throw from Jermarcus Franklin 18 seconds later for a 28-27 edge at intermission.
McMillan and Jenkins scored back-to-back buckets as Boyd-Buchanan led for the last time at 31-30 with 6:17 showing in the third quarter.
Franklin and Tyree Beason converted back-to-back three-point plays and the Warriors were never threatened as they slowly increased the lead. The difference was 51-40 when the third quarter ended.
The Warriors only had one field goal in the fourth quarter, but they took advantage of their opportunities at the charity stripe as they sank 19 of 24 to extend the final margin of victory to 18 points.
Beason had 22 points to lead the winners while Franklin was next with 20. Smith was also in double figures with 17.
Allen was tops for Boyd-Buchanan with 14 points while McMillan followed with 11. Nason was next with nine while Jenkins finished with eight.
BTW had a 29-18 advantage on the boards with Fitch snagging 10 for the Warriors. McMillan had five for the Bucs while Allen had four.
The Warriors hit 17 of 35 field goal attempts for 48.6 percent while the Bucs countered with 22 of 46 for 47.8 percent. The Warriors sank half of their eight 3-pointers while Boyd-Buchanan hit just five of 14 from beyond the arc after hitting their first three to start the game.
MEIGS COUNTY BEAT Columbia Academy by a 83-68 margin to earn the right to play the Warriors in the semifinals on Friday.
"The difference in the game was rebounding," said Meigs coach Sammy Perkinson after his team improved to 31-4.
"I wish that we would shoot our free throws better, but we'll take it. We put 83 points on the board and only had eight turnovers, so I'm pretty happy. We were able to wear them down in the second half, but that game was a whole lot easier than what it took to get here," he added.
Matthew Meadows had 24 points as the Tigers had five players in double figures. Levi Woods was next with 18 while Zy Moore added 17. Bryson Baker and Camryn Harris finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
CLASS AAA WINNERS on Wednesday included Blackman, Brentwood, Arlington and Oak Ridge. Blackman ousted Hamilton, 72-63, before Brentwood whipped Wilson Central by a 56-36 final. Arlington had to play an overtime before eliminating Siegel by 86-80 before Oak Ridge whipped Jefferson County, 66-45.
THE TYNER RAMS play their first game on Thursday afternoon against Nashville East with the tipoff set for 2:15 Chattanooga time.
B.T. WASHINGTON 15 13 23 21 -- 72
BOYD-BUCHANAN 17 10 13 14 -- 54
B.T. WASHINGTON (72) -- Blakely 5, Fitch 8, Gilmore, J. Franklin 20, Smith 17, Payne, Carwell, P. Franklin, Beason 22, Harris, Sumerall, Hooker, James.
BOYD-BUCHANAN (54) -- Allen 14, McMillan 11, Cox 5, Walker 5, Jenkins 8, Walker, Evans, Arendale, Nason 9, Covington, Macon 2, Hodge, Jackson, Clarke, Kent.
3-POINT GOALS: B.T. Washington 4-8 (Gilmore 0-1, Smith 1-1, Beason 3-6); Boyd-Buchanan 5-14 (Allen 1-3, McMillan 3-6, Cox 0-1, Walker 1-4).
(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)