The Brainerd Panthers finally got tired of losing to Central in basketball so they decided to do something about it.
The Panthers snapped a five-game losing streak over two seasons and they did so in front of a near-capacity crowd at their own High-Jackson Gymnasium by a 69-62 final Tuesday night in the championship game of the District 6-AA tournament.
While the third time was the charm for Brainerd, that wasn’t the case among the girls as Tyner beat Red Bank for the third straight time, the latest by a convincing 57-47 margin.
The good news is that all four of these teams will be at home later in the week for the opening round of the Region 3-AA tournament with the girls playing on Friday night and the guys on Saturday.
TYNER GIRLS 57, RED BANK 47: Samantha Maffett canned a 15-footer from the baseline to give the Lady Rams a quick 2-0 lead and Tyner never trailed.
The game was tied twice in the first quarter, but Maffett finished the period with a 3 from the wing as the difference was 19-15 when the first quarter ended.
Tyner then scored six of the last eight points to take a 27-19 lead into the dressing room at intermission.
The Lionettes cut the gap to five points on three occasions in the second half, the last time at 38-33 following a nice inside move by Layla Babb to start the fourth quarter, but Tyner followed with an 8-0 run for a 46-33 lead with 6:10 to play and it never got much closer.
“Well, we finally got it,” said an overjoyed Tyner coach Katrich Williams when the game finally ended.
“Right now, I’m kind of overwhelmed as Red Bank is a relentless team on the boards. We struggle with rebounding at times, but everything we do on offense comes from our defensive effort and that’s what we feed off of.
“It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough and I’m happy about that,” she smiled.
Red Bank coach Bailey McGinnis normally doesn’t show much emotion, but she was visibly shaken in the final minutes of this game.
“I’m not happy at all with the way we played as we just didn’t come ready to play,” she began.
“I just don’t understand it when we’re playing for a district championship and I just don’t know what to say. I’m glad that we’ll be playing at home in the region, but this one will hurt for awhile. We just didn’t do anything well enough to win,” she added.
Marquiesha Conyers and Maffett both scored a dozen points to lead Tyner, now 14-10 overall. All of Maffett’s points came in the first quarter.
Kaysha Rodgers was also in double figures with 10 while Mai’Mesia Parks followed with nine points.
Dani Usher scored 17 points and grabbed a dozen rebounds for Red Bank, but it wasn’t enough.
Shelley Romans and Mya Kennebrew were also in double digits for the Lionettes with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Red Bank, falling to 17-9 with the loss, had an impressive 28-16 edge on the boards unofficially with Usher’s 12 leading the way. Conyers and Rodgers both snagged five for Tyner.
BRAINERD BOYS 69, CENTRAL 62: The Panthers finally got the Central monkey off their back and they did so with a pressing defense and positive contributions from all nine guys that got to play.
As you might expect, it was fast-paced and physical at times, but Brainerd seemed to make more big plays when they counted most.
Rodney Benford scored on a layup to start the game for Central but Brainerd responded with six straight points – including four from Dajuanta Ross and two from Malik Beavers – for a 6-2 lead two minutes in.
The game was tied three times in the opening quarter before Brainerd scored six straight late for an 18-15 lead at the first break.
Ryan Montgomery and Emmanuel Lane had back-to-back buckets to start the second to give the Purple Pounders a 19-18 lead, but Brainerd scored the next seven points and never trailed again.
Montgomery banked one in from the free throw line at the halftime buzzer to get Central within eight at 35-27 and Brainerd kept it in the 7-8 point range for the longest time.
Brainerd was still ahead by 50-43 when the third quarter ended and that’s when Central shifted into another gear.
The Pounders got as close as three points twice in the final 90 seconds, the second on a slam by Montgomery to make it 63-60 with 1:14 to play, but Brainerd then put the game out of reach with six straight points, making a layup at the buzzer by Terron Hayes meaningless.
“I didn’t earn this, but they did,” said Brainerd coach Levar Brown as he held up the championship plaque for all to see.
“This means a ton to us as they really wanted it. I guess they finally got tired of being the runner-up to Central, but they went out and got it tonight. I didn’t have to say anything in my pre-game speech as they knew what was at stake, but I did send them text messages for the last week reminding them what that runner-up plaque looked like.
“I’m really proud of them as they played for each other tonight. And I’m lucky that I have a good group where the quality of play doesn’t drop off when I substitute. I just need to develop more trust in their ability as they can all play,” Brown said with a big grin on his face.
Central coach Rick Rogers had nothing but good things to say about Brainerd’s performance on their home floor.
“Brainerd played well for the entire game and we didn’t. We have to get rid of that lull we seem to go through with every game, but they had three big 3s in the second quarter that put us behind the 8 ball and we had to fight back the rest of the way,” Rogers said.
“We just didn’t have any luck go our way tonight as you’ve got to get a few good bounces along the way. But if we’re going to lose to them, I’d rather it be now rather than later,” he added.
Brainerd’s plan was to attack the bucket inside the lane and that’s what they did as big Jesse Walker responded with 17 points. Kentrell Evans was next with 15 as four Brainerd players finished in double figures.
Ross was next with 14 while Michael Hampton added 10, all coming in that second quarter.
Montgomery was tops for Central with 22 points while Hayes was next with 19. Big McClendon Curtis had nine points and 13 rebounds as Central won the battle of the boards by a 28-24 margin. Malik Beavers had six caroms for the Panthers.
RED BANK 15 4 12 16 -- 47
TYNER 19 8 11 19 -- 57
RED BANK (47) – Romans 14, Roberts, Usher 17, Kennebrew 13, Babb 3, Claiborne.
TYNER (57) – Bedford 6, Parks 9, Conyers 12, Melton 2, Maffett 12, McCutheon, McGee, Watkins 4, Taylor 2, Rodgers 10.
3-POINT GOALS: Red Bank 2 (Romans 2); Tyner 4 (Parks 2, Maffett 2).
GIRLS ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Jayla Stone, Rabbitt Lawrence (East Ridge); Jermeria Dortch, T.T. Staten (Hixson); Mya Kennebrew, Dani Usher, Shelley Romans (Red Bank); Marquiesha Conyers, Jai’Mesia Parks, Samantha Maffett (Tyner).
BRAINERD 18 17 15 19 -- 69
CENTRAL 15 12 16 19 -- 62
BRAINERD (69) – Shropshire, Ross 14, Evans 15, Melvin 6, Beavers 4, Hampton 10, Beach 3, Herman, Walker 17.
CENTRAL (62) – Lane 6, Montgomery 22, Swafford 2, Hayes 19, Curtis 9, Benford 2, Baxter 2.
3-POINT GOALS: Brainerd 3 (Hampton 2, Beach); Central 4 (Hayes 4).
BOYS ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Will Davis, Malik McConnell (Red Bank); Kevin Cameron, Jeremy Elston (Tyner), Ryan Montgomery, Terron Hayes, McClendon Curtis (Central); Jesse Walker, Kentrell Evans, Dajuanta Ross (Brainerd).
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)