McCallie basketball coach John Shulman always has a unique perspective on the game he loves to coach. For instance: there is no such thing as a loss in the regular season.
“We go by wins and learns, and trust me, we learned a lot about our basketball team tonight,” Shulman said followingTuesday night’s 68-59 loss to defending state champion Brentwood Academy.
And if the veteran coach had a chalkboard by his side he would have written all the “learns” his boys in blue took away from the hard-fought defeat.
McCallie (18-3, 2-3) came out dragging from the beginning of its third game in four nights and quickly fell behind the perennial powerhouse from Nashville.
The lead was 10 after one quarter and swelled to 17 midway through the second period.
But by the time the fourth period rolled around, McCallie found itself in the lead with 5:43 left thanks to an all-out gutsy effort in which the team fought for every rebound, every missed shot, and every loose ball to get back in it.
“For us to be down 17 against Brentwood Academy with the history we have with them and come back to take that lead, you can’t help but see the positives,” Shulman explained. “I don’t want to make any excuses, but to battle like we did with the schedule we’ve had the past four days really makes me proud.
"At no time last year did our team think we had a chance against Brentwood Academy, even in the state finals. We learned tonight we can beat them,” Shulman added.
Unfortunately for the Blue Tornado the one thing they already knew was the one thing probably nobody in this state has an answer for: senior Brentwood Academy guard Darius Garland.
Garland, already a McDonald’s All-American, found out prior to the game he had been selected to the prestigious Nike Hoops Summitt which brings together the top 12 players in the country. The two-time Mr. Tennessee basketball and the state’s top-rated player did not disappoint.
Garland single-handedly made sure that all the blood, sweat and tears McCallie poured into the game would go for naught. Garland accounted for the Eagles first 21 points in the final half as McCallie whittled and whittled away at the big lead, and when Junior Clay’s three-point play put the Blue atop 51-50 in the final period, Garland was at his absolute best.
The Vanderbilt-signee rebounded a missed shot and stuck it back in to regain the lead, immediately stole a tipped pass, dished it away for an open shot, and followed up the missed shot with a big-time rebound and follow. Garland then took a charge on the other end, popped in a 12-foot fadeaway that would have made Lebron James proud to push it back to 56-51.
“He is just such a tough kid and a great player. There’s just nobody like him in this state and I have a hard time believing there is a better guard anywhere in the country,” said Brentwood Academy coach Hubie Smith.
Shulman offers no argument.
“I coached against Steph Curry for four years and I know what special is. Two years from today, he (Garland) is going to be someplace like Boston, LA, or Minnesota doing the same thing he did tonight in that other league. He’s just that good. He glides out there and he takes shots a lot like Curry did where you think that’s a bad shot, but for guys like them, they are really good shots,” Shulman praised.
Garland wound up with 32 points on the night with four assists, three steals and three rebounds and made all but one of the Eagles’ made baskets in the final half. He was so good that Brentwood Academy never shot a free throw until McCallie was forced to foul in the final three minutes. Why?
Because no one could stay close enough to foul the speedster and the ball was always in his hands when it counted most.
“I felt good tonight. Coach kept telling me to shoot it, but he is always getting on to me about taking more shots,” Garland laughed as his coach walked by.
“Yep, I’ve got the toughest job around telling that guy to shoot it,” Smith shot back.
McCallie’s Junior Clay did his best to match talent with the All-American and finished with 19 points, including seven in that final period. Swingmate Mac Hunt added 12 on four 3-pointers and Jorden Starling chipped in another 10 despite battling back spasm that limited the big man’s night.
“This is just such a great region,” Smith said. “There are three or four teams that can it all and McCallie is definitely one of them. It was a great win for us to come in here and walk away with it.’
Brentwood Academy now stands at 13-5 overall and 4-1 in the tough DII East/Middle AA Region.
Cam Johnson, a senior who has signed to play football at Vanderbilt, added 10 points to help supplement Garland’s night.
Brentwood Academy girls 76, GPS 47: The state’s top-ranked Lady Eagles jumped all over the Bruisers, putting up 47 first-half points and then closing the deal with a 12-0 run to start the second half in the win.
Sydni Harvey led four Lady Eagles in double figures with her 19 points as Brentwood Acadmey won its 10th game in a row and improved to 17-2 and 6-0 in the DII East/Middle AA Region. Kallie Sercy added 12 and Blair Shorwald and Maggie Brown each chipped in with 10.
GPS (9-10, 4-6) got 20 points from steady Brooke McCurdy and nine from Mackenzie Jennings.
Brentwood Academy 24 23 22 7 -- 76
Girls Preparatory School 11 14 12 10 -- 47
BRENTWOOD ACADEMY (76) – Wilson 4, Harvey 19, Brown 10, Stouchoff 5, Brown 3, Graham 1, Wilson 6, Bussard 2, Shoerwald 10, Kolvic 2, Donley 2, Sercy 12.
GPS (47) – Little, Songer 3, Dunigan 8, Jennings 9, Wyatt 2, McCurdy 20, Sands 5
3-point goals: Brentwood Academy 5 (Harvey 2, Shoerwald 2, Stouchoff); GPS 8 (McCurdy 4, Dunigan 2, Songer, Jennings).
Brentwood Academy 21 16 10 21 -- 68
McCallie 11 20 13 15 -- 59
BRENTWOOD ACADEMY (68) – Davis, Lyons 5, Garland 32, Archie 4, Conklin 5, Johnson 13, Reynolds, Green 6, Fuller, Curtis 1, Carter, Clifton 2.
McCALLIE (59) – Starling 10, Clay 19, Walker 2, Butler 5, Gibson 5, Hunt 12, Shulman 6, Watkins, Hardy, Dickey.
3-point goals: Brentwood Academy 8 (Garland 5, Green 2, Lyons); McCallie 7 (Hunt 4, Shulman 2, Gibson)
(Contact James Beach via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @beachnut1134)