Talk about a mind-bending matchup for the state tournament opener.
Tyner’s streaking Rams, who have won 13 consecutive games, caught a team that’s even hotter on Saturday at the draw meeting for the 2014 TSSAA boys’ state basketball tournament at Middle Tennessee State University.
The Rams (25-3) will clash with East Nashville Magnet (26-5) at 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday. East Nashville goes into the tournament at MTSU’s Murphy Center riding a 17-game win streak and hasn’t lost a game since early January.
“I don’t know much at this point about East Nashville, but that winning streak tells me they know how to win,” Tyner coach Gerald Harris said in a telephone interview after Saturday’s draw meeting.
“I put a quote on our (locker room) board that reads: ‘In order to win the state tourney you’ve got to get in.’ My guys have met or exceeded every goal we’ve set for the season so far. We deserve to be here and I have every confidence with this team right now.”
Tyner is ranked No. 5 in the state by coachT.com while East Nashville is No. 6.
Chattanooga’s other state tourney entrant, third-ranked Boyd-Buchanan, will play Booker T. Washington out of Memphis at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday. The Bucs (28-3) have won seven in a row and 16 of 17.
The Warriors have won three of their last five games, but the losses were to Mitchell in the district and regional tournament title showdowns – each by 20 points.
Mitchell (27-6) is also in the tournament and will play top-ranked Goodpasture (30-1) at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.
”I like the fact that we’ll be playing the first Class A game,” Bucs coach Cole Rose said. “We can just get going and not have to think about anybody else in our bracket. We can hopefully take care of our business and then watch everybody else play.”
Booker T. Washington (26-7), while losing district and regional title games, beat Humboldt, 57-53, in the Sectional to earn a berth in the state quarterfinals.
Tyner and East Nashville each won district, regional and Sectional titles without suffering a tournament loss.
In the postseason, the Eagles have averaged 77.3 points while allowing 55.7 to six opponents. The Rams averaged 67.7 points and gave up 50.3.
The last loss for East Nashville was a 77-71 setback against Pearl Cohn on Jan. 3. The Eagles avenged that loss by defeating Pearl Cohn for the District 10-AA tournament championship.
Tyner’s last loss was against Prominence (N.C.) Academy, 60-45, in the Scenic City Showcase on Jan. 18. The Rams opened that same tourney with a 71-66 loss to The Rock out of Gainesville, Fla. They blasted East Hamilton, 76-40, in their other SCC game.
The only other time the Rams came up short was on Dec. 21 against Whitehaven, 68-46, in the Lynx Holiday Classic in Memphis.
“We’ve got eight seniors on this team and a lot of them understand what’s ahead and will be up for the challenge,” Harris said. “This is one of the best teams I’ve had at Tyner. The 2010 team (the last Rams squad to reach state that lost to Marshall County, 61-60, in overtime) was really good. We had a whole lot of height, size and were a little deeper. I think defensively this is one of the better teams I’ve had.”
Something else Harris could add to his inspirational board message is that no team can claim the state title without winning the quarterfinal round.
So, how will Harris’ Rams handle the first-game jitters?
“That’s the million-dollar question,” he said. “We’ll approach it like every game we’ve played. We have a routine and there’s no sense in changing anything. One thing is the kids might be nervous playing in a big arena, but we practiced at (Tennessee-Chattanooga) last week to get them used to the back-drop.”
The mood around school has been simply exciting. A number of other schools have phoned offering their congratulations and best wishes for the Rams. The buzz around the Tyner Academy hallways is full of pride and excitement form teachers and students.
“This is great for Tyner,” Harris said. “We’ve given the kids a little more attention in the last few days because going to state is something special.
“Every team in the final eight is good. It’s a matter of understanding the moment and whoever plays good will advance. We’ve played a lot of good teams and I don’t think anything we see in Murfreesboro will surprise us. We put together our schedule with this in mind.”
Boyd-Buchanan defeated Perry County, 48-47, for the 1996 Class A championship and finished runner-up to East Robertson in the 1988 tournament. Both teams left the tournament with 30 wins.
On Saturday, Rose wasn’t sure the Bucs had been back to state since the 1996 tourney.
The coach said his team had a good week of practice and now is able to concentrate on its next opponent.
But, like Harris, Rose was scrambling to find game tapes and/or scouting reports on his quarterfinal opponent. Preparation time is short.
“We have to get as much information on Booker T. Washington as we can and put a game plan together,” he said. “I’m trying to find any connection I might have to the (Memphis) area. I’ll be calling them and asking for favors – politely. Hopefully, I can offer anything I can give in return. A lot of film exchanges hands at tournament time.”
Boyd-Buchanan won 12 games to open the season before losing to Tyner, 56-40, in the championship game of a Christmas tournament at Chattanooga State on Dec. 28. Five days later the Bucs lost to Central, 54-52, and also lost to the Purple Pounders, 58-54, on Feb. 8.
After the second Central loss, the Bucs went on their merry winning ways leading up to the state tournament.
“Our guys don’t have state tournament experience,” Rose said, “but we played in a heck of a tournament at Christmas and performed really well. We tried to schedule games in the regular season with any type team we might face in the state tournament. That helps with something for our kids to draw from.
“At this point we’ve seen just about everything. I know we’ll be facing teams we haven’t played, but hopefully there is some commonality between them and our opponents we have played this year. Right now my knowledge of Booker T. Washington is zero and I’ve just got a couple of days to gather some information.”
Some solace to Rose’s information quandary is that BTW coach Michael Phillips, listed on the TSSAA website directory as the school’s head football coach, is hustling for reports on the Bucs.
“In practice we’ve just been trying to sharpen things we do and try to do them better,” Rose said.
According to the coachT.com website, Boyd-Buchanan has the state’s No. 3 defense and gives up just 43.8 points per game.
BTW averages 74.1 points going into Wednesday’s game and that’s good enough for 11th place in the state.
During the postseason the Bucs have averaged 61.7 points in six games and given up 47.3 while the Warriors put up 58.1 points and allowed 53.0 in seven games.
Throw all the statistics in a pot and you’ve got a recipe for excitement for the game on Wednesday.
“It’s definitely exciting around school,” Rose said. “We had a great crowd at our (Sectional) game and that excitement sustained throughout the week. A lot of people are coming to the game in Murfreesboro and we’re bringing a pep bus full of students.
“It’s an exciting time to be on campus.”
State Tournament Schedule
(All Times Are Eastern Standard)
Booker T. Washington (26-7) vs. Boyd-Buchanan (28-3), 5:30
Meigs County (30-4) vs. Columbia Academy (28-4), 7:30
LEAD Academy (17-11) vs. Hampton (29-5), 11 a.m.
Goodpasture (30-1) vs. Mitchell (27-6), 12:30
Tyner (25-3) vs. East Nashville (26-5), 2:15
Carter (26-7) vs. Greeneville (25-9), 3:45
Christ Presbyterian (33-2) vs. Upperman (28-6), 5:30
Jackson South Side (29-2) vs. Manassass (25-8), 7:00
Blackman (25-6) vs. Hamilton (27-6), 11 a.m.
Brentwood (31-2) vs. Wilson Central (26-6), 12:30
Arlington (28-4) vs. Siegel (31-1), 2:15
Jefferson County (30-5) vs. Oak Ridge (30-7), 3:45
(Note: Team listed first in schedule will be visitor)
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)