Levar Brown really didn’t have much to complain about following his team’s quarterfinal game in the Region 3-AA basketball tournament Saturday night at Brainerd’s High-Jackson Gymnasium.
It was a pretty safe bet long before this game started that the Panthers would be favored heavily against the visiting Loudon Redskins.
After all, Brainerd won the District 6-AA championship and entered Saturday’s game with a sparkling 23-4 record while Loudon finished fourth in District 5-AA and came to town with a 7-19 worksheet.
The Panthers played well at times, while just seemingly going through the motions at others, but it didn’t matter as they advanced to Tuesday’s semifinal round with an impressive 91-55 victory.
Brainerd will now faceTyner in the second boys semifinal at 7:45 on Tuesday at East Ridge.
It will be all 6-AA teams in the semis as Red Bank and Central also won by large margins.
Red Bank beat 5-AA champ McMinn Central 81-55 while Central spanked Sweetwater by an 83-48 final after leading by 47-8 at the half. And Tyner posted an impressive win over 5-AA runner-up Sequoyah by a 61-49 final.
Tuesday's match-ups have Red Bank facing Central for the fourth time at 6 and the Brainerd-Tyner clash to follow around 7:45.
“We looked really ugly as we missed too many wide-open layups and we just weren’t dialed in,” said Brown after the final horn had sounded.
“We got the win and our season is still going, but the focus just wasn’t there tonight as we were looking ahead. They did what I asked for the most part and I got the chance to play a bunch of young kids, so I’m pretty happy about that,” he added.
Loudon coach Trae Watkins liked what he saw in the first eight minutes, but things fell apart for his team in the second quarter.
And when big Bryce Jackson had to leave the game early in the second quarter after crashing to the floor on a rebound attempt, any chance of a Loudon comeback flew out the door with him.
“I thought we were patient against their press in the first quarter, but we got sped up in the second quarter. And when Jackson got hurt, all of our momentum was sucked out,” the head man suggested.
“We played hard, but we haven’t played a team as athletic and quick as Brainerd all year. They killed us on the boards, but we dug ourselves into a big hole and it was virtually impossible to get out of. And every time we did something positive, they always had an answer,” Watkins added.
The Panthers scored the first seven points to start and never trailed. Loudon got to within three points six times in that opening quarter, including at the end when Brandon Millard scored on a put back at the buzzer to cut Brainerd’s lead to 19-16 at the first break.
The second quarter was the back breaker for the Redskins as Brainerd started on an 8-0 run and outscored them 23-6 for a commanding 44-22 lead at intermission.
The second half looked more like a game you’d play in your driveway where there was a lot of scoring and very little defense. And while Loudon had its most productive quarter with 23 points, Brainerd countered with 24.
With Brown freely sending in subs throughout the fourth quarter, the younger Panthers kept scoring as they slowly pulled away to win by 36.
Dajuanta Ross scored 18 points to lead a quartet of Brainerd players in double figures.
Jessie Walker followed with 16 while Michael Hampton had 14 and Vesta Melvin 10. Jamal Herman finished with nine and Kentrell Evans eight as 11 of the 12 Brainerd players who played scored at least two points.
Dalton Bogus battled hard the entire game and finished with 20 points to lead the scrappy Redskins, including eight points in the first quarter.
Dawson Blankenship was also in double figures with 14 while Jesse Smallen was next with nine.
Brainerd won the rebound battle by an unofficial 36-25 margin.
Walker snagged eight for the Panthers while Malik Beavers was next with six. Bogus topped Loudon with six.
LOUDON 16 6 23 10 -- 55
BRAINERD 19 23 24 25 -- 91
LOUDON (55) – Blankenship 14, Downer 4, Hairston, Millard 4, McBride, Rutherford, Smallen 9, Small, Dutton, Joiner, Bogus 20, Jackson 4.
BRAINERD (91) – Sow, Shropshire 3, Ross 18, Evans 8, Melvin 10, Beavers 4, Hampton 14, Beach 2, Herman 9, Walker 16, Chapman, Long 3, Mynatt 4.
3-POINT GOALS: Loudon 3 (Blankenship 2, Smallen); Brainerd 5 (Shropshire, Melvin, Hampton 2, Long).
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)