Jeremiah Nason wasn’t on the court Monday night when Boyd-Buchanan began its Class A boys’ basketball state sectional game against Clarkrange.
But Nason was certainly there at the end, and if he hadn’t been, the Bucs might not have ended the evening by celebrating a state tournament berth.
Nason came off the bench to help Boyd-Buchanan overcome a sluggish first half and rally for a 51-47 victory on their home court. The win avenges last year’s sectional loss to Clarkrange, and sends the Bucs to next week’s Class A state tournament in Murfreesboro.
“This is the result of four or five years of hard work for us,” Nason said. “This is what we’ve been looking forward to the whole time. It’s just great to finally get here, especially against the team we lost to last year.”
The Region 3-A champion Bucs were hosting the 4-A runner up Buffaloes in a rematch of last season’s state sectional, and in the opening minutes, it looked as though that loss might be weighing on their minds. Clarkrange opened up a 7-1 lead as the normally sharp-shooting Buccaneers started out 0-for-7 from the floor.
“I think we were tight,” Boyd-Buchanan coach Cole Rose said. “Like with anything in life, sometimes you want something so badly that you turn out to be your own worst enemy. We had a lot of missed free throws, and layups, and shots that we normally make. But luckily, we played defense.”
The Boyd-Buchanan defense finally came through with a steal from Austin Walker that he converted into a basket with 3:10 remaining. The Bucs used a 7-0 run to tie it at 10 by the end of the first, but with several starters in foul trouble, they struggled to get their offense going.
Nason put his team up 15-13 on a pass from Zach Jenkins two minutes into the second period, but Boyd-Buchanan wouldn’t score again until Justus McMillan sank a 3-pointer in the final minute. McMillian had another 3-point attempt go in and out in the final second of the quarter, which ended with the Bucs clinging to an 18-17 lead.
Boyd-Buchanan built an early four-point advantage in the third, but Clarkrange used its two big men inside to stay in the game. The teams traded leads until the third quarter ended tied at 37, and Broderick Howard opened the fourth with a long 3 to put the Buffaloes on top.
Two free throws gave Clarkrange a five point lead and the momentum until Nason came through with two hustle plays. After the Bucs gave up a loose ball, Nason prevented a turnover by scooping it up and feeding Walker for a basket. On the ensuing Clarkrange possession, Nason tipped the ball into the hands of QD Cox, who then drove for a score to get the Bucs within one.
“He was the absolute difference in this game,” Rose said of Nason. “He wreaked havoc defensively. He allowed us to use a smaller lineup without giving anything up on defense. By the end of it, his size disadvantage was really an advantage for us, and it was just by sheer will on his part.”
A three-point play extended the Buffaloes lead back to four with under five minutes to play, but after two free throws from Jenkins, Nason came through again. Although he scored the tying basket after Cox had tipped away a Clarkrange inbounds pass, the Bucs struggled to put the game away at the free-throw line.
They finished 10-for-24 from the stripe, and their misses in the fourth quarter helped Clarkrange regain the lead at 47-46 with 1:30 left in the game. The Bucs responded, however, with a basket from McMillan, follwed by a huge steal from Nason with just under a minute on the clock. That led to two free throws from McMillian to put Boyd-Buchanan up 50-47.
After Clarkrange missed a 3, Cox grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 6.7 seconds to go. He hit the first of two shots, and five seconds later, the Bucs rushed the court to celebrate a victory that felt like it was a year overdue.
“It was just a really proud moment for me,” Rose said. “Especially with last year ending so similarly but then not pulling through. Seeing the kids learn, and grow, and get better is just a special moment for a coach. I think it’s huge for them because the program was at a really low point four years ago when they started high school. I really feel like they’ve earned it.”
Cox finished with a game-high 17 points, followed by nine apiece from Nason and McMillan. Cox also contributed five steals, while Nason had three and six rebounds.
“As coach always says, we’re a team,” Nason said. “It could’ve been any one of us. I was just trying to do my part for the team. This is just the best feeling in the world, and after what happened last year, it just makes it even better.”
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at email@example.com)
Class A State Sectional
BOYD-BUCHANAN 51, CLARKRANGE 47
Clarkrange 10 7 20 10 -- 47
Boyd-Buchanan 10 8 19 14 -- 51
Clarkrange (47) -- Broderick Howard 14, Landon Baldwin 13, Ronnie Siems 10, Hall 5, Beaty 5, Crouch.
Boyd-Buchanan (51) -- QD Cox 17, Nason 9, McMillan 9, Walker 8, Jenkins 4, Arendale 2, Allen 2, Macon.
3-point goals: Clarkrange 4 (Howard 2, Hall, Beaty); Boyd-Buchanan 1 (McMillan).