The Signal Mountain girls always have close games when they play Red Bank and those are normally decided by one or two points. The same can be said for the Tyner-Brainerd boys as both are pretty evenly matched.
These four teams played for District 6-AA tournament championships Tuesday night at Red Bank’s Susan Ingram Thurman Gymnasium and neither game was as close as normal.
Top-ranked Signal Mountain and second-seeded Tyner both prevailed by 10 points, the Lady Eagles winning by a 47-37 final and the Rams evening their season series with the Panthers in a 68-58 final.
Ironically, neither winning team sank a 3-point shot.
All four of these teams will host first-round region games on Friday and Saturday.
Olivia Koontz scored 17 points and had nine rebounds unofficially and was named tournament MVP after the Lady Eagles improved to 21-10.
Amon Grace was equally impressive for Tyner as he matched his jersey number with 22 points while claiming 10 rebounds. He was named the boys MVP.
First-round region games have Red Bank hosting Sweetwater on Friday and Signal Mountain hosting the District 5 fourth-place team. Saturday home games have Tyner hosting Polk County and Brainerd hosting Loudon.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN GIRLS 47, RED BANK 37: These two teams had both won regular-season games on their home court, but the Lady Eagles changed that script with Tuesday’s big win.
“We just battled and played outstanding defense, so I’m really proud of the way things turned out,” said Signal Mountain coach Kendra Bell, a former All-State player who graduated from Red Bank in 1984.
“We don’t always shoot the ball very well, but we got some high percentage shots and some good inside looks. I always feel like my team has a good shot to win when we hold the other team to just 37 points, but this is our fifth straight district tournament championship and fifth-straight season when we won at least 20 games. That’s something we’re all proud of,” she added.
Red Bank coach Bailey McGinnis thought she had a great game plan in place, but things don’t always work out the way they’re planned.
“I really don’t know what to say,” she said shortly after the final horn had sounded. We’re still playing and we’ll host another game on Friday, but this is a hard one to swallow.
“It seemed like Signal Mountain did all the little things to win and we didn’t. We’ll go back to work tomorrow and try to correct some things, but we just didn’t get it done tonight.
“I’m thankful our season isn’t over. A lot of teams would gladly trade places with us, but Signal Mountain sank some big free throws and we didn’t,” McGinnis concluded after her team’s record dropped to 21-8.
Koontz sank a short jumper in the lane in the final minute to knot the score at 13-13 when the first quarter ended.
It was tied again at 16 before three free throws from Lamiah Walker and a layup following a steal by Jaylah Hardy put the Lady Eagles up 21-16 with 6:13 left in the second quarter.
Signal’s biggest lead in the first half was 25-17 following two charity tosses by Hardy with 2:40 remaining before Bailey Lee scored to keep Red Bank within six at intermission.
The Lady Eagles scored the first five points of the second half for a 30-19 lead with 2:30 showing and the difference was still 11 at 32-21 before Arteya Scott scored on a layup and Lee hit the first of two free throws in the final minute to close the gap to 32-24 with one quarter remaining.
The Lady Lions opened the final stanza with a 7-1 run and got within two at 33-31 following a layup by Savannah Washington with 5:59 to play, but it never got any closer as the Lady Lions never found their stroke on the offensive end.
Signal Mountain quickly scored six points to extend the difference to 39-31 with 3:06 to play and it never got any closer as the Lady Eagles sank their last four free throws to make the final margin 10 points.
Walker scored 19 points and Koontz 17 to lead Signal Mountain while Hardy was next with nine.
Scott scored 13 to lead Red Bank while Lee followed with nine points.
Red Bank did have an unofficial 30-28 rebounding edge at Lee snagged 15. Koontz had nine for the Lady Eagles while Jolie McGann had six and Hardy five.
TYNER BOYS 68, BRAINERD 58: This was just another typical Tyner-Brainerd game except for the final score not being as close as usual.
It was high intensity as you would expect and extremely physical with lots of fouls called on both sides.
It seems that the Rams had the upper hand in that regard as Tyner sank 22 of 34 charity tosses while Brainerd countered by sinking eight of 14.
Much like Signal’s coach Bell, Tyner coach E’Jay Ward is a Brainerd graduate, so he knows just a little about how intense this rivalry has become in recent years.
“I thought both teams played hard, but defense and rebounding were keys for us and we made some free throws at the end,” said Ward after his Rams had improved to 20-5 for the season and evened the series with the Panthers at 2-2.
“They beat us twice in the regular season. We beat them at Best of Preps in December and now tonight, so we’re 2-2 now. That’s what this game is about. I felt like we came in here tonight as the underdog, but we were hungry. This was the opportunity we were waiting for.
“We’ll celebrate a little bit tonight, but it’s back to business as usual tomorrow. I’m just hoping we get to play them again next week in the region final,” he added.
Brainerd coach Levar Brown wasn’t the happiest guy in the gym when the final horn sounded. He certainly didn’t like some of the calls that went against his team, but that was never his excuse for his guys coming out on the short end of the stick.
“I thought both teams played hard, but Tyner got more loose balls and they played harder than we did,” he began.
“Tyner’s effort versus ours was better as they just got after it better than we did. I’m pretty sure the sun will still rise tomorrow and we’ll learn from this loss. Games like this build character and I’m hoping we’ll be better because of it,” he nodded.
Tyner got off to a fast start by scoring eight of the first 10 points before the Panthers answered with an 8-0 run for a 10-8 lead following a drive down the lane by LaDerron Freeman with 2:30 left in the opening stanza.
Grace scored on a layup to end a 7-0 run by the Rams that had them ahead 15-10 at the first break.
Tyner kept the lead for most of the quarter until Brainerd scored five straight points for a 28-27 lead following a layup by Freeman with 1:12 left in the second. Grace then converted two layups in the final minute as the Rams carried a 31-28 lead into the dressing room at intermission.
The Rams never trailed again.
Tyner’s biggest lead in the third quarter was 41-30 with five minutes left following a layup by Solomon Bridgeman while a three-point play by Kobe Smith with 51.3 seconds left put Tyner ahead 46-37. A 3 at the buzzer by Jamaal Ward cut Tyner’s lead to 46-42.
Another 3 by Cavonte McKibbens with 3:25 to play got the Panthers within two at 52-50, but it turned into a free throw contest the rest of the way and Tyner was able to extend its lead by sinking eight of 13 in the final three minutes.
Melique Hambrick sank the first of two charity tosses with 36.2 seconds for Tyner’s biggest lead at 68-56 before a layup by Kevin Halfacre Jr. at the end trimmed the final margin to 10 points.
Smith also had a big game for Tyner as he finished with 24 points with Grace adding 22. Bridgeman had eight and Trenton Gresham seven for the Rams.
McKibbens was Brainerd’s only player in double figures as he finished with a dozen. Freeman had eight while Trey Owten and Halfacre both finished with seven.
Tyner had an unofficial 33-23 edge in rebounds as Grace and Smith both claimed 10 for Tyner. Freeman had seven for Brainerd while Ciante Chancy grabbed six.
RED BANK 13 6 5 13 -- 37
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 13 12 7 15 -- 47
RED BANK (37) – Roberts 2, Washington 6, Romans 6, Ware 1, Scott 13, Bowens, Lee 9.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN (47) – Kennedy, Hardy 9, Riese, McGann, Walker 19, McCarter 2, Koontz 17.
3-POINT GOALS: Red Bank 3 (Romans 2, Scott); Signal Mountain none.
GIRLS ALL-TOURNAMENT: Brainerd Tyreesha Merritt-Sanders and Kimia Carter; Tyner Keionna McCutcheon and Tamyra Long; Red Bank Shelby Romans, Bailey Lee and Savannah Washington; Signal Mountain Jaylah Hardy, Lamiah Walker and MVP Olivia Koontz.
TYNER 15 16 15 22 -- 68
BRAINERD 10 18 14 16 -- 58
TYNER (68) – Hambrick, Gresham 7, Dillard, Dozier 5, Melton, Bridgeman 8, Holloway 2, Sturkey, Grace 22, Smith 24.
BRAINERD (58) – Hubbard 2, Owten 7, Freeman 8, Halfacre 7, Lattimore 3, Williams 6, McKibbens 12, Chancy 5, Ward 3, Evans 5.
3-POINT GOALS: Tyner none; Brainerd 8 (Halfacre, Lattimore, McKibbens 4, Chancy, Ward).
BOYS ALL-TOURNAMENT: Howard Calvin James and Demetrius Bowens; East Ridge Sam Garmany and Alonzo Russell; Brainerd Cavonte McKibbens, Trey Owten and Jonte Williams; Tyner Solomon Bridgeman, Kobe Smith and MVP Amon Grace.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)