Across the state, District 6-AA has a reputation all its own, a field full of landmines which must be navigated with grit and care every night. Generally, it is harder to get through the district than it is to get through to the state field. Think SEC football along the way to BCS title games of late.
The Tyner Rams completed their first trek through the field Thursday night with a battle inside Red Bank’s Susan Ingram Thurman Gymnasium and rarely has such a trip been navigated without having to brake off of cruise control, but the Rams have done just that.
The Lions became the latest district foe steamrolled, falling 63-31 to the talented Tyner squad which now sits 7-0 atop the mountain.
In fact, the 32-point margin was the third closest game Tyner has weathered in league play, winning its first seven outings now by an average of just under 35 points a wallop.
“We pride ourselves in this district and we have high expectations. We’ve preached a sense of urgency to the boys because you never know when the next opportunity might be available. We don’t take any game for granted and know tomorrow isn’t promised, so it’s important to seize the day every day,” said Tyner coach Ejay Ward.
Mission accomplished so far. The Rams have seized, sautéed, and stormed at a rate not seen in a league where the champ is annually thrown in the mix for much greater prizes. The champ has made reservations in Murfreesboro 15 of the last 16 years.
Tyner played with a sense of urgency from the opening tip, racing to an 11-2 lead out of the gates as its stifling full court press forced Red Bank into 10 first quarter turnovers. The Lions wound up with 24 turnovers for the game, and managed to get off just 43 shots for the night.
“It’s kind what we’ve been up against the last few weeks,” said Red Bank coach Nick Fike. “We just don’t have much comfort on the offensive end of the court, and some of that is simply chemistry.”
The Lions lost six seniors from last year’s squad and lost three other key players to start this year through either injury or early graduation. And while the Lions have made their presence felt since Fike took over the program, the one puzzle which still remains unsolved has been Tyner. It was the Rams’ 23rd straight win over Red Bank dating all the way back to 2011.
“We just lack toughness right now if you want to be honest. This game is about toughness and we got out-toughed by a good team tonight. Defensively, we had spurts where we got it done. We had six straight stops to start the second half, and didn’t score a single time on the other end, and that takes a toll on you,” Fike admitted.
Tyner had its largest first lead with an 11-3 run to end the half, making it 33-17 at the break, but the Lions forced five turnovers and a missed shot to open the second half, but the closest they got was within 38-24 as the Lions made just three of 15 shots in the period. Tyner scored eight straight to push it back to 44-24 and it was never really a contest after that.
“I’m a defensive-minded coach because that was my bread and butter in college. We did a lot of good things but there’s some stuff we will see on tape where we can get better. We just have to continue to build on this first half of the season. We just need to continue to get more reps, and play every game like it could be our last. Every one we get to play, we need to play it like it’s the state tournament,” Ward said.
The Rams certainly have a lot of weapons at their disposal. Big man Anthony Sims can be a handful, and Melique Hambrick has provided an immeasurable spark in his new role off the bench. Keelan Jackson guards the rim well and Nehemiah Bloodsaw doesn’t mind taking it to the hole.
“Again, we just need more reps for these guys. Sims has been patient waiting behind some really good big men the last couple of years, and it is paying off. Melique is a starter for us, but he comes off the bench to give us that spark when we need it. When we guard without fouling, we are pretty good on defense, but we have to quit bailing people out with fouls,” Ward added.
Sims had nine first half points and finished with 10 for the game as one of four double digit players. Hambrick hit three 3s and led the team with 11 points while Jackson and Bloodsaw each had 10. Jackson also had four blocks on the night as Red Bank was held to 23 percent shooting on 10 of 43 shots. Tyner, meanwhile, only shot 28 percent, but the big difference was the fact it got off 61 shots.
Cam Bell led the Lions with 12 first half points, scoring 12 of their first 14 points, but was held scoreless in the final half. No other Red Bank player managed more than two buckets.
Tyner girls 51, Red Bank 27: The Lady Rams won their fourth straight game, limiting the winless Lionettes to just 10 points through the first three quarters. Allonia Allen and Kaileigh Chubb combined for 32 points with Allen netting 17 and Chubb adding 15.
Red Bank managed to score 17 fourth quarter points as Taya Guye got an even dozen for the Lionettes.
TYNER 12 13 19 7 – 51
RED BANK 5 5 0 17 – 27
TYNER (51) – McCullough 6, Ratliff 2, Kaileigh Chubb 15, Camp 3, Allonia Allen 17, Manghane 2, Long 6.
RED BANK (31) – Gann 1, Loher 5, Taya Guye 12, Ware 7, Brown 2, Vinson, Wade.
3-POINT GOALS: Tyner 0; Red Bank 4 (Guye 2, Ware, Loher).
TYNER 14 19 13 17 – 63
RED BANK 5 12 8 6 – 31
TYNER (63) – Melique Hambrick 11, Gresham 2, Dillard 2, Ross 5, Keelan Jackson 10, Nehemiah Bloodsaw 10, Melton 2, Conyers 4, Anthony Sims 10, Holloway 2, J. Sims 5.
RED BANK (31) – Barber 2, Swanson 2, Eddins 6, Cam Bell 12, Clay, Smith 3, Sewell 2, Crutcher 1, Loyd 1, Alex 2.
3-POINT GOALS: Tyner 6 (Hambrick 3, Ross, Bloodsaw, Sims); Red Bank 2 (Eddins, Smith).
(Contact James Beach at firstname.lastname@example.org)