MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – East Nashville’s Terry Holt gave Tyner a first-half jolt and the Rams never fully recovered from the shock.
Holt, a 6-foot-3-inch senior being recruited by several mid-major colleges, almost single-handedly put the Rams in a disastrous hole early in the game.
Tyner didn’t have enough shovels to dig out in the TSSAA Class AA quarterfinal pitting teams with a combined winning streak of 30 games.
Rams coach Gerald Harris saw a lot of Holt on East Nashville tapes and knew he could be trouble.
“I knew he was a good player,” Harris said. “He’s definitely a scorer and everything we saw on tape said that. He got a lot of his points today in transition because our guys didn’t do a good job of finding him on the court.
“And their role players do a great job of complimenting him.”
Holt scored a point even before the game started. The Rams were hit with a technical foul for running onto the floor and around the entire court through the East Nashville players.
So, when the real action started Holt went off.
He scored seven of the Eagles’ first 13 points and 12 of the first 20 as East Nashville raced to a 20-6 lead after the first quarter. Holt made two 3-pointers in the opening quarter.
At that point, East Nashville was 7 of 16 from the floor while the Rams went 2 of 11 for 18.2 percent.
When Holt hit a jumper at the 3:20 mark of the second quarter, he had 20 points.
Tyner’s team had 21.
“From the jump I was aggressive because our film on them showed they could get out of control at times,” Holt said. “They dribble with their heads down a lot and have turnovers or they get some charge calls. We wanted to take advantage of that and get our transition game going.”
Scoring in bunches is not new to Holt.
In the Eagles’ 96-81 win over Cascade in the Sectional, a victory that shoved East Nashville into the tournament at Middle Tennessee State University, Holt scored a season-high 27 points.
“My teammates did a good job getting the ball to me and that got me going,” Holt said. “Once I started scoring my teammates kept getting me the ball.”
East Nashville coach Jim Fey has seen Holt destroy opposing defenses all season and that’s a key reason the Eagles go into Friday’s semifinals against the Greenville-Carter winner riding an 18-game winning streak.
“That’s the way he’s played all season,” Fey said. “He’s the best player in Nashville and he’s pretty much carried us. Terry is our go-to guy. While it seems like he scored 20 points in every ballgame, it’s not a one-man team. We’ve got other guys that can score.”
Tyner found that out as well.
After Holt’s bucket that gave him 20 points in the first half on 7-of-11 shooting, he didn’t score again until hitting two free throws with 3:13 left in the game. That triggered a stretch where Holt made 5 of 6 freebies that gave East Nashville a 75-56 cushion.
While Holt was absent from the scoring, the Eagles saw Tyner cut their lead to 52-45 on DeQuan Hardwick’s layup on an inbounds play underneath the Rams’ basket.
Isiah Upton made a field goal to end the third period and Tyner’s Kevin Cameron opened the fourth period with an acrobatic layup. Tyner was back within seven points at 54-47.
Holt made a free throw and four other Eagles – Patrick Smith, Thomas Booker, Isaiah Blacksmith and Toree McGhee – scored the team’s next 15 points to push the lead out to 70-56.
“We knew (Holt) was good,” Tyner point guard Sadik Spence said. “I knew it even before because my AAU team played his AAU team. We beat them, but he was the only kid that was scoring.
“But I though our pressure defense could handle him today.”
Holt finished with a game-high 27 points and hit 8 of 16 field goals, including 3 of 5 3-pointers.
While the Eagles shot 46.6 percent from the field, including 52 percent in the second half, the Rams shot 42.6 percent, making 23 of 54 shots. In the second half, Tyner hit 13 of 33 shots for 39.4 percent and fell hopelessly behind.
The Eagles went 23 of 35 from the foul line and the Rams were 13 of 19 and Harris watched as Rodney Watson, Alex Watkins and Cameron joined him on the sideline after fouling out.
Spence had four fouls at game’s end.
“This was my last high school game and I’m sad about that,” he said, “but we made it to sub-state all four years and that makes me happy.”
The Eagles know exactly how Spence feels.
A year ago, Howard High of Chattanooga defeated the Eagles in the quarterfinals.
“That’s not a good feeling,” Holt said. “Last year we lost in the first round and we didn’t feel like we had it until the clock ran down.”
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)