It’s still early in the high school basketball season, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t already been some key district games being played the first week of December.
Such was the case at Red Bank’s Susan Ingram Thurman Gymnasium Tuesday night where the Tyner Rams were facing off against the host Lions.
The Lions battled back from a double-digit deficit in the second half to knot the score with more than three minutes to play, but the Rams never flinched and pulled away at the end to win by 10.
Tyner remained unbeaten after two games with the 66-56 victory.
“I know it’s still early in the season, but this was a key district contest and a must-win game for us,” explained Tyner’s first-year coach E’Jay Ward shortly after the final horn sounded.
“We know we’ll come face-to-face with some adversity and that’s what we did tonight, but we responded in a positive way and were able to come away with a win. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we were able to pull through.
“We’re still a little sloppy on defense and we missed too many free throws, but overall I’m pleased with our effort. Jaylen Bowens and Jeremy Elston are two seniors who carried the football team this fall and we’re hoping they can do the same for us,” Ward added.
Bowens and Elston both played in a state championship football game on Friday when the Rams lost a heartbreaker in double overtime, but they were both ready to play basketball on Saturday. Despite still working their way into a different kind of shape, they both were positive contributors in Tuesday’s win.
Bowens was one of three Tyner players in double figures as he finished with 15 points, including a dozen in the second quarter when the Rams stretched a 12-10 lead to 35-24 by intermission.
Elston added six points, but Bowens snagged eight rebounds and Elston seven as Tyner won the battle of the boards by an unofficial 46-41 margin with more than half of those coming on the offensive end of the floor.
Red Bank coach Nick Fike was pleased with the effort, but his team’s lack of rebounding stood out in his mind as an area where his team must get better.
“We just need to rebound better as they killed us on the boards,” Fike said after his team evened its overall record at 3-3 while dropping to 0-2 in District 6-AA.
“They had at least 25 offensive rebounds and that hurt, but rebounding is all about heart and who wants the basketball. We played hard down the stretch and made a nice run to tie it, but we had a couple of defensive lapses and that cost us the game.
“We didn’t get rattled by their press and I was happy about that. And we got the shots we wanted on offense. We just didn’t knock’em down. We’re still missing our big man Jamel Davis, a real load in the middle who is away playing in an all-star football game.
“I’m really optimistic about this team and I’m sure that we’ll be alright on down the road,” Fike concluded.
Tyner scored seven of the first nine points to start the second quarter as that two-point lead stretched to 19-12 following a steal and layup by Bowens two minutes into the period.
Tory Sewell made four straight free throws in a span of 42 seconds to get Red Bank within one at 23-22 with 2:24 left in the first half.
The Rams then finished the quarter on a 12-2 run for a 35-24 lead at intermission.
Javon Craddock bagged a 3 from the wing to give Tyner its biggest lead at 44-30 and the difference was still 13 when the fourth quarter began.
Red Bank responded with a run of its own as a 15-2 advantage in the first four and a half minutes knotted the score at 50-50 when Will Thomas converted a four-point play with 3:24 to play.
Bowens hit a free throw and teammate Solomon Bridgeman scored five straight points in the next minute and all of a sudden, that tie game had turned into a 56-50 Tyner lead with 2:38 left.
Red Bank was pressing full court at that point trying to force a turnover, but the Rams never batted an eye and responded with three straight uncontested breakaway layups in the final minute to finish with a 10-point win.
Bridgeman finished as the leading scorer and rebounder with 24 points and a dozen boards to lead the Tyner attack. Craddock was next with 16 points while Bowens added 15.
Sewell had 22 points to lead the Lions while Thomas was next with 19. Brandon Jones led the Red Bank rebounding effort with 11 while Lucas Brown and Mike Porter were both credited with seven apiece.
RED BANK GIRLS 53, TYNER 43: A one-point lead for the Lionettes after the first quarter stretched to 10 by halftime and that was basically the difference in the game as both teams scored 29 points in the final two stanzas.
Bailey Lee had 15 points and Mya Kennebrew 14 as the Lionettes remained unbeaten after six games with their second straight district win.
Keniah Watkins was tops for Tyner with 18 points while Leaundra Melton was also in double figures with 11.
TYNER 9 5 13 16 -- 43
RED BANK 10 14 16 13 -- 53
TYNER (43) – McKenzie, Ratliff, Cooley 1, Melton 11, McCutcheon 2, Watkins 18, Taylor 6, Wyatt.
RED BANK (53) – Roberts 7, Babb 4, Pratt 5, Romans 6, Ware, Claiborne, Kennebrew 14, Bowens 2, Lee 15.
3-POINT GOALS: Tyner 5 (Melton 3, Watkins 2); Red Bank 1 (Roberts).
TYNER 12 23 13 18 -- 66
RED BANK 10 14 11 21 -- 56
TYNER (66) – Jackson 1, Bridgeman 24, Grace 4, Craddock 16, Little, Jer. Elston 6, Bowens 15, Halfacre, Jav. Elston, Gladden, Strong.
RED BANK (56) – Brown 5, Sewell 22, Jones 5, Thomas 19, Ellis, Jackson 5, Porter, Young.
3-POINT GOALS: Tyner 4 (Craddock 4); Red Bank 4 (Sewell, Thomas 3).
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)