Emily Matthews had the ball at the free throw line and the Tyner zone was closing in around her. She looked to her right and her left, and kept the ball high over her head. After taking a moment to survey the defense, she saw an open Maddy Zidan on the baseline to her right and pinged a pass in that direction. This selfless play resulted in an easy midrange jumper and one of many great possessions in the Chargers’ 51-39 win over Tyner.
“Maddy did a good job of executing in the halfcourt,” coach Laura Cottrell said.
“She caught the ball in rhythm and got the shot up.”
CCS’ Chargers lived up to their name and stormed out to an early 10-2 lead in the first quarter. The home team seemed to be destined for a runaway win when sharpshooter Lilly Brady hit a couple of quick triples and Ryleigh Bray put in a couple of two-pointers.
But thanks to some excellent playmaking by Ineisha Camp to set up shots for her teammates, Tyner actually tied up the game at 13-13 with 6:16 left in the second quarter. She threw a long hit ahead pass to Kamari McCullough for the layup.
But Aayannah Baird and the rest of the Chargers countered with some great passing of their own. After regaining the lead, Lilly Brady ran downcourt, caught the ball over her shoulder, and then laid the ball in while being fouled for the and-one play. Jaydah Rainey was a dog down low too and was a great presence on the boards. After the Rams tied the game up, the Chargers ran off seven quick points in a minute and a half to retake control.
“Jaydah is just a freshman, but she’s impacted every game we’ve played in so far,” coach Cottrell said. “She’s valuable as a rebounder and she can put the ball in the basket too.”
The Rams offense was stagnant until McCullough iso-ed at the elbow and took it to the hoop. She powered through contact and made the difficult scoop layup to break the long scoring drought. Ali Matthews floated in a putback layup and Tyner hit a number of free throws as the team went back and forth. Alona Allen was the high scorer for Tyner in the first half with seven, and put in a couple of freebies. Rainey put her left shoulder into her defender on the block and hooked in a shot to end the half with the Chargers up 24-18.
It did not take long for the Chargers to run off a couple of buckets. First was a bucket by Bray on the interior, and then CCS15 slipped through the defense for another layup to take the Chargers’ lead to double-digits.
Baird used her speed and passing ability to get her teammates open shots, and Maddy Zidan knocked down a three to stretch the lead even further. Zidan scored all of her 19 points in the second half. Camp finally got Tyner a basket on a skillful pullup from the left wing, but it was obvious that CCS’ size was going to be an issue as they continually drew fouls inside.
Tyner began to imitate CCS’ fastbreak attack to close the quarter, and had Camp and company race the ball down court before the defense could be set. After digging themselves into a hole, the game got to a manageable 39-28 by the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Zidan and Alona Allen traded fastbreak buckets in the opening minute of the quarter, with Zidan scoring off a turnover and Allen getting hers after Camp found her in the open court. Kaileigh Chubb cut the lead back to single-digits after she picked-pocketed a CCS ball handler and hit the easy layup. And a few minutes later, Allen made a contested shot through a foul to bring Tyner within only seven.
Brady’s long bomb stopped the run, and Tyner’s chances of completing a rally were dampened when Allen had to leave the game after she was hurt diving into the stands for a loose ball. Baird completed another full court pass to Rainey for an effortless transition layup to put CCS back up by 10 with 1:46 left, and the Chargers salted away the last two minutes to win the game by 11.
“For us, we teeter on being out of control, and I think we’re better when we’re a little out of control,” coach Cottrell said. “When can get scrappy and get easy points. We’re getting much better at executing, so when we get to the point where we can do both consistently, we’re going to be pretty good.”
In the boy's contest, Tyner was running the weave, a play designed to allow several players to touch the ball. But as designed, the last player to have his hands on it was point guard Xavier Fisher, who was easily the best passer on the floor. Instead of going to the basket, he scanned the floor and saw a cutting Latavious Conyers diving to the rim. His laser-like pass hit Conyers right in the hands, and an emphatic two-handed dunk was the result.
“Xavier is a willing passer and a leader and a senior, and guys play hard because they know he will get them the ball in transition,” coach E’jay Ward said after the 66-52 win. “Guys are ready to rock and roll when he has the ball.”
A generous view of the game’s start would be to call it a great defensive struggle. Neither team could get anything to fall for the first three minutes of the game, with shots being ariballed, clanked off the rim, pounded on the backboard, and generally going anywhere but inside the rim.
But after CCS’ Boo Carter nailed a stepback triple from the top of the key, it began a deluge of points. Tyner’s Nehemiah Bloodsaw went in for a layup, and then the teams traded baskets. After another prolonged scoring drought, Boo Carter took it baseline-to-baseline for the and-one scoop. The offense at times seemed entirely-dependent on giving the ball to Carter up top and letting him get to work.
“Everyone knows Boo is a special kid and is one of the best athletes in the city, so we just wanted to wear him down,” coach Ward said. “Players like that are going to make tough shots, so as a team you just have to move onto the next play.”
Bloodsaw was up to the challenge offensively. While he could do little to stop Carter from making shots, he matched Carter by making high-arching shots from deep. Point guard Xavier Fisher ran the show admirably as well.
He didn’t score in bunches like the other two, but he got his team open shots more often than not. On the inside, Tyner Keelan Jackson and Anthony Sims established themselves as a force around the basket and on the boards. After Tyner began trapping Carter (who had 14 in the first half) and forcing other CCS players to beat them, Tyner lived with shotmaking from others and took a 28-23 lead into halftime after Bloodsaw nailed a buzzer-beater from the right wing for his 11th point of the half.
“He works on those tough shots, and before the game I told him he was the baddest thing in the gym,” coach Ward said. “He went out there and proved it.”
Rodney Henderson took it all the way after forcing a turnover to kick off the second half, and then confidently put in a three-pointer to bring the lead up to double-digits. In a possession that encapsulated the game, Carter had to dribble through the entire defense, juking and cutting past everyone, to put in a tough layup. On Tyner’s next take, Fisher drove and kicked to a wide-open Jackson, who splashed the three from the wing.
Bloodsaw kept up the pressure as the quarter wore on. He sliced open a vulnerable CCS defense for one layup, and then was on the receiving end of a Henderson pass on a scramble-drill for an and-one finish. Xavier Fisher’s three with a minute and a half left in the third made it a 19 point lead and deflated the fans, but a fadeaway triple from eighth-grader Reid Conley momentarily put life back into the crowd.
A more-diverse CCS offense (that still boasted the threat of a Boo Carter quick-trigger attack) pulled within nine with five minutes to go. Parker Graham hit a pair of triples to bring another element to the CCS attack. Carter was an acrobat in the air, and feasted on single-coverage. Sims immediately pushed it back to 11 when he bullied the CCS’ interior for a layup in traffic.
“We wanted to take advantage of the smaller lineup CCS had out there,” coach Ward said. “Anthony did a good job in the paint, and Keelan did a good job rebounding, and we just controlled the paint.”
Chattanooga Christian’s non-Carter players made some frankly-incredible moves when they had the ball, but could not finish their shots. The result was a 66-52 win that was both closer and more distant than the final score indicated.
TYNER 9 9 10 11 – 39
CCS 13 11 14 12 – 51
TYNER (39) – Alona Allen 15, Camp 8, Chubb 2, McCullough 9, Davis 3
CCS (51) – Baird 2, Lilly Brady 14, Matthews 2, Rainey 6, Bray 8, Maddy Zidan 19
3-POINT GOALS: Tyner 1 (Davis 1); CCS 4 (Brady 3, Zidan 1)
TYNER 7 21 24 14 – 66
CCS 9 14 13 16 – 52
Tyner (66) – Nehemiah Bloodsaw 17, Rodney Henderson 16, Xavier Fisher 11, Jackson 9, Sims 6, Conyers 5, Jackson 2
CCS (52) – Boo Carter 28, Graham 9, Baldwin 5, Irvin 4, Houston 3, Conley 3
3-POINT GOALS: Tyner 6 (Bloodsaw 2, Henderson 2, Jackson 1, Fisher 1); CCS 8 (Carter 5, Graham 2, Conley 1, Houston 1)