After a sluggish start, the Chattanooga State Tigers grabbed a first-half lead over the visiting Roane State Raiders on Wednesday night and never let it go. Fighting off runs from the pesky Raiders squad, it felt like the Tigers had to win this game three or four times before the final buzzer sounded.
Roane State veered in and out of striking distance all night, but size and physicality helped propel the Tigers to an 83-69 win as they took over the battle of the boards and dominated the paint down the stretch.
“The biggest thing is we started rebounding better,” said head coach Jay Price. “We were doing a good job defending, but we weren’t finishing the play, so once we started rebounding, things got a lot better for us,” said Price.
Both teams struggled to take care of the basketball early on, and after hitting from beyond the arc and earning several trips to the foul line, Roane State was leading five minutes into the action. Midway through the first half, however, Chatt State put together good possessions with quick ball movement and methodically captured a lead that they clung to all the way to halftime.
Part of that turnaround included a 17-5 run where active hands and refusal to allow easy looks shut down Roane State for the better part of the first half and the Tigers took an 11-point lead into the break.
After a few quick buckets from both sides to begin the second half, fans looked on with confusion as both teams went ice cold for the next several minutes. Even a few open layups failed to find the bottom of the net, and it seemed both baskets must have had a lid on them preventing either team from finding a bucket.
Finally, Chatt State broke through. After a few baskets apiece from Scooter Williams and Kevin Sesberry, the Tigers jumped out to a gaping 24-point lead capped off by a 16-4 run.
“They had a cold spell where they couldn’t hit anything, which gave us a chance to push the lead,” said Price.
Not willing to give in, Roane State found themselves down just 11 only moments later, thanks in part to four second-half threes from Harper Neal who caught fire just in time to keep his team in the ballgame.
Down the stretch, however, Chatt State’s size proved to be too much. The Tigers shot 15 free throws in the last 10 minutes of the game and connected on all but two of them.
“They have some big strong guys, but we have some big strong guys too,” said Price. “I think the physicality went in our favor because we were able to sustain it.”
Still fighting, Roane State implemented some full-court defensive pressure late in the game, causing several turnovers and thrusting them within single digits of the lead with just under five minutes to play. Having seen Chatt State once hold a lead of over 20 points, the intensity and energy in the building rose for the thrilling late-game action.
Ultimately, the Raiders of Roane State weren’t able to hit the clutch shots when they needed them, and their comeback bid fell short.
“This is definitely the worst we’ve shot the ball all year,” said Roane State head coach Alan Holt. “So I think being able to hang around with a really good Chatt State team was a really bright spot for our guys.
The taste of late-game drama was a delight for the fans in attendance in a game that at times looked like it was heading for a blowout. A scrappy, relentless Roane State squad was exhilarating to watch, and the Chatt State Tigers who kept their foot on the gas when they had to was just as gripping.
“I think we just have a bunch of resilient guys,” said Holt. “I think a lot of it has to do with their background and where they’re from. We’ve got some pretty tough guys who come from tough situations so I think their character really shines through in difficult situations,” Holt said.
The back-and-forth affair of streaks and runs included a game-high 22 from Chatt State’s Mo Schramm, and a few acrobatic jams from both sides, with the bigger, more opportunistic Chattanooga State Tigers holding on for a well-earned home victory.
CHATTANOOGA STATE 40 43 -- 83
ROANE STATE 29 40 -- 69
CHATTANOOGA STATE (83) – Mo Schramm 22, Brandon Wharton 4, Scooter Williams 16, Kevin Sesberry 14, Keyshwn Devlin 10, Lucas Brown 5, Lionel Swaby 2, Trent Gresham 2, Jay Howard 2, Keyshawn Collier 4, Kristian Spencer 2.
ROANE STATE (69) – Desmond Billingsley 4, Devin Perry 15, Sebastian Tidor 15, Kavon Blankenship 7, Harper Neal 16, James Meriech 1, Amauri Young 11, King Warren 2.
3-point goals: Chattanooga State 5 (Mo Schramm 2, Keyshawn Devlin 2, Scooter Williams 1);
Roane State 7 (Devin Perry 3, Harper Neal 4)
Team Records: Roane State: 4-3 Overall; Chattanooga State: 9-1 Overall