Baylor and Ensworth split their two regular-season basketball games with the Red Raiders prevailing by 15 at home while the Tigers won by a dozen in Nashville.
They played the rubber game in the series Saturday at Baylor’s Jimmy Duke Arena.
The game was much closer than either of the first two, but the home team won again as Baylor improved to 18-6 with the closer-than-it-sounds 54-48 victory.
With the win, the Baylor boys join their female counterparts for state semifinal games on Friday at Nashville’s Lipscomb University. Based on the brackets posted on www.tssaasports.com, the Baylor girls will play Brentwood Academy in Friday’s first game at 10 a.m. (CST) while the Baylor boys would face the MBA-Briarcrest winner in the fourth game of the day, which is set for 2:45 Nashville time.
Those pairings will be finalized on that website on Sunday.
But on a night when four Baylor seniors played their final home game and most of the students and parents were wearing green in memory of senior Patrick Urey’s mother, who passed away last summer, it was a day of celebration as Baylor pulled away late for its biggest win of the season.
Baylor coach Austin Clark has been the Red Raider leader for the past 36 years. They’ve won one state title in that stretch with 2012 being the last time they advanced to the Final Four.
He was cautiously happy afterward, despite showing concern for junior forward Lorenzo White, who suffered a high ankle sprain late in the game and had to be carried off the floor. His availability on Friday has not been determined.
“That’s a team that traditionally plays in the state tournament, but we played well in stretches. We had a bunch of guys step up and I’m not going to call their names, but I’ll just say it was a Baylor win tonight,” Clark said while pacing back and forth in the Baylor cage where all the athletic equipment is stored.
“They sped us up at times and got us away from what we wanted to do and there were times when we needed to step in the gaps and take a charge, but Ensworth is an aggressive basketball team and this was just a good high school game from the start.
“I really appreciate my assistant coaches as they did a fantastic job preparing us for this game. Bill Cox has been by my side since the start and my son Jordan is doing a great job too. But these guys know what their roles are and they did what they needed to do to win this basketball game,” the older Clark added.
Ricky Bowers is the head coach for the Tigers, but he was absent as he’s back home taking care of a sick wife who’s been undergoing some tough medical treatments. Greg Eubanks has been appointed as the interim head coach and he gave credit to Baylor’s Clark for a job well done.
“That was our best defensive effort all year and we had our chances, but it came down to free throws and power moves inside,” he said outside the Ensworth dressing room after their season ended at 16-14.
“They had the Urey kid back tonight. He was hurt the last time we played. He didn’t score that many points, but just his presence on the floor makes a big difference for his team as he’s a rock-solid player.
“Baylor is so good at what they do. We were involved in a really close game, but they hit that big 3 late and then went up by five, we were in a hole at that point. Austin Clark is a great coach and he always has his guys ready to play. He may have been the difference tonight,” Eubanks concluded with praise.
Keyshawn Lawrence hit two buckets and Jaylon King third at the start to give Ensworth a 6-0 lead. Warren Zager scored on a putback late to give the Tigers a 12-8 lead when the first quarter ended.
Baylor got a bucket from Beyaun Hendricks, a free throw from White and another bucket from Tre Jackson for its first lead at 13-12 with 5:14 left in the second stanza.
Freshman Randy Brady then sank two free throws in the final minute as the Red Raiders were ahead 22-19 at the break.
That three-point lead stretched to nine at 30-21 with 6:27 left in the third when White scored on a putback, but the Tigers came clawing back and knotted the score at 36 when the quarter ended on a nice inside move by King.
The score was tied four times in the final stanza, the last time at 43-43 following a runner in the lane by Jackson with 2:51 to play.
Hendricks then swished a 3 from the wing 20 seconds later and Brady scored on a baseline drive on Baylor’s next possession to put the hosts up by five with 1:37 left.
Dominic Wynn sank two free throws with 1:26 showing to get Ensworth within three at 48-45, but it didn’t get any closer as Baylor pulled the game out of the fire with four free throws in the final minute, two by Boris Ristanovic and two more by Brady with 2.4 seconds as the Red Raider victory celebration had already begun.
White had 14 points to lead the Baylor offense while Brady was next with 13.
Zager was the only Ensworth player in double digits as he finished with 18 points, including 15 in the second half.
King was next with nine while Wynn had eight, Keyshawn Collier seven and Lawrence six.
Ensworth had an unofficial 26-24 edge on the boards as Zager grabbed seven. Lawrence and King both claimed five. White had six for Baylor while Niko Simpkins and Hendricks both had five.
Chattanoogans had hoped to have three teams in Friday’s semifinals, but the McCallie boys were eliminated 54-52 by Memphis University School.
ENSWORTH 12 7 17 12 -- 48
BAYLOR 8 14 14 18 -- 54
ENSWORTH (48) – Zager 18, Calloway, Clemmons, Collier 7, Eubanks, Lawrence 6, King 9, Wynn 8, Antonutti.
BAYLOR (54) – Jackson 6, Hendricks 7, Ristanovic 4, White 14, Brady 13, Urey 5, Simpkins 5.
3-POINT GOALS: Ensworth 2 (Collier, Wynn); Baylor 4 (Hendricks, White, Brady, Urey).
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)