Melique Hambrick has hit some big buckets in his young high school basketball career, but none were ever any bigger than the one he hit at the end against East Ridge Tuesday night.
Sam Garmany sank a jumper in the lane with 21 seconds left to put the Pioneers ahead by a point at 70-69, but Hambrick came through with a big 3 with six seconds remaining to lift the Rams to a stirring 72-70 victory in a critical District 6-AA game for both teams at Tyner.
The Rams remain unbeaten in district play at 4-0 and are now 6-1 overall. East Ridge is now 3-2 in 6-AA and 5-5 overall.
Tyner coach E’Jay Ward has all the confidence in Hambrick’s ability to shoot, going as far to tell him that he’ll be taken out if he doesn’t shoot.
The Rams had wanted to pound the ball inside for a higher-percentage final shot, but that plan didn’t materialize. Hambrick was in the right place at the right time as he swished his final shot.
Ironically, he scored 16 points on his 16th birthday.
“That was a big one,” the birthday boy said with a smile following the game.
“We all felt it might come down to the last shot. My teammates have a lot of confidence in me and I knew they needed me at that point. There was never a doubt when it left my hands that it was going in,” he explained further.
Hambrick was one of three Rams in double figures. Turns out they needed every point as East Ridge played really well and were believing they could head home with a victory.
Coach Ward felt like his team might have overlooked the Pioneers as they approach a big game with arch-rival Brainerd on Friday. He was breathing a huge sigh of relief when Tuesday’s game ended.
“All credit goes to East Ridge as they played harder than we did,” Ward began after a short talk with his team.
“We wanted to pound the ball inside for that last shot, but we were able to find Melique open and he hit the big shot. Today’s his 16th birthday and I’m sure it’s a game he’ll never forget,” the coach praised the young shooter.
“We knew that East Ridge had at least three guys who could shoot it well, but we were able to make key stops at the right time. I’m pleased with the effort as we hit the big shot at the end and we won. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters,” Ward nodded.
East Ridge coach Jon Goddard said before the game that his team had lost at least three games by letting a lead get away at the end. Tuesday’s game was just the latest for the scrappy Pioneers.
“I thought we played hard the entire game, but we have to play smarter,” the veteran coach expressed.
“Like I said earlier, we just have to find a way to finish. Our leading scorer fouled out in the fourth quarter and we didn’t miss a beat. There’s a lot of parity in this district this year as several teams are capable of winning. We just have to be ready to play every time out.
“We went zone there at the end, knowing they would probably go inside. We had a little miscommunication on the baseline and their guy made the shot. We rolled the dice, but that’s basketball,” Goddard concluded.
Tyrone Martin was the leading scorer for East Ridge who went to the bench with his fifth personal foul with 4:33 to play and his team trailing by three at 63-60.
The Pioneers regained the lead at 68-67 with 1:40 to play when Deric Tremble canned a jumper from the wing. Tyner’s Kobe Smith scored on an inside move with 43 seconds left to put Tyner ahead at 69-68 before Garmany’s shot.
Hambrick hit the game winner with about six seconds to play for Tyner’s final lead as East Ridge called its final timeout with 5.1 seconds left. Unfortunately, the Pioneers never got off that final shot as the final horn sounded with the Rams on top.
Smith had 27 points, including 17 in the first half, to lead Tyner while Hambrick followed with 16. Solomon Bridgeman was next with 14.
Martin had 29 points to lead the Pioneers, including 20 in the first half when Tyner built a 39-31 lead at the break.
Garmany was next with 14 while Alonzo Russell had 10. DeAngelo Hudgins and Tremble were next with nine and eight points, respectively.
East Ridge had an unofficial 24-21 advantage in rebounds as Garmany snagged six and Russell five. Bridgeman had six to lead Tyner.
TYNER GIRLS 76, EAST RIDGE 24: Tyner’s lead was only 27-17 at the half, but a 35-4 advantage in the third quarter spelled doom for the Lady Pioneers as Tyner’s press made it almost impossible to inbound the ball, much less get off a decent shot.
A 49-7 difference in the final quarters turned this one into a blowout as the mercy rule was used in the final two minutes of the third quarter and the rest of the game
Jaharia Cosey scored 23 points in the second half and finished with 34 to lead the Lady Rams. Kieonna McCutcheon also finished in double figures with 13.
Casiee Jordan was the only East Ridge player in double figures as she finished with 16.
EAST RIDGE 6 11 4 3 – 24
TYNER 10 17 35 14 -- 76
EAST RIDGE (24) – Moton 2, Harvey, Ca. Jordan 16, Ch. Jordan 4, Wade 2, Reynolds, Perez, Kennebrew, Brigance.
TYNER (76) – McKenzie 7, Ratliff 1, Cooley 4, Cosey 34, Camp 8, Poole, McCutcheon 13, Crumsey 1, Long 7, Thomas, Carnes 2.
3-POINT GOALS: East Ridge 1 (Ca. Jordan); Tyner 2 (McKenzie, Long).
EAST RIDGE 16 15 21 18 -- 70
TYNER 25 14 12 21 -- 72
EAST RIDGE (70) – Pollard, Tremble 8, Williams, Hudgins 9, Russell 10, Johnikin, Martin 29, Taylor, Garmany 14.
TYNER (72) – Hambrick 16, Gresham 2, Dillard, Dozier, Bridgeman 14, Holloway, Fisher 5, Morgan 2, Sturkey 2, Grace 4, Smith 27.
3-POINT GOALS: East Ridge 8 (Hudgins, Martin 5, Garmany 2); Tyner 8 (Hambrick 3, Fisher, Smith 4).
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)