The McCallie basketball team has really been working hard in recent weeks, but didn’t have much to show for their effort.
All of that hard work paid off on Tuesday night at Chattanooga Christian’s Bosworth Gymnasium as the Blue Tornado led for most of the game before claiming their first region victory with the 73-59 decision.
It’s been a tough season for the Blue Tornado, but they improved to 8-12 overall and 1-4 in region play following Tuesday’s win. They are without a doubt the best team in Chattanooga with a losing record and most of those defeats have been by single digits.
First-year coach Steve Robison has been hard-pressed at times to explain those tough losses, but he was smiling from ear to ear after Tuesday’s game.
“We needed this win more than you will ever know, but it seems like the story of our season to come up short at the end of the game,” he began after exiting the McCallie dressing room.
“It seemed like we were settling for a lot of 3s early in the game, but started attacking the basket later on and that may have been the difference. It got a lot closer than we would have liked, but our defense in the second half was really good.
“I told my guys when they cut it to five that we had to get a couple of buckets and a couple of stops to create some breathing room. It got a little sloppy at times, but we were able to finish it out,” the coach concluded with a smile.
CCS coach Wes Moore didn’t offer any excuses after his team dropped to 12-10 overall and 0-4 in region play.
“Those guys at McCallie are so well coached and so disciplined as they make you work for everything,” Moore said shortly after the final horn had sounded.
“I didn’t think we shot the ball particularly well, but were able to hang in there. We played hard as always and I can’t fault our effort, but they made some big shots in the fourth quarter that may have been the difference,” he added.
Parker Robison hit a 3 from the wing to start the game and a 3-0 lead for the Blue Tornado in the first minute before the Chargers responded with six straight points for a 6-3 lead with 4:17 left in the opening stanza.
CCS didn’t lead again as McCallie regained the advantage with seven straight points for a 10-6 lead following the first of two free throws by Drew Hamilton with 2:31 left in the first.
Dre Jackson, who single-handedly kept the Chargers in contention as he led all scorers with 29 points, hit a short baseline jumper with 1:35 left to get CCS within two at 12-10 before Robison and Kolin Claridy both scored on layups in the final minute for a 16-10 lead at the first break.
Jackson scored from the line with 3:31 left before intermission to get the Chargers within two at 20-18, but the Blue Tornado finished the half on a 10-5 run for a 30-23 lead at the break.
McCallie threatened to blow the game open at the start of the third quarter as they scored 13 of the first 14 points in the first three and a half minutes for their biggest lead at 43-24 after Will Kwasigroch bagged a 3 from the corner with 4:24 left in the third stanza.
Just as quickly, the Chargers turned up the intensity on both ends and finished the quarter on a 16-2 run to trail by only five points at 45-40 with one quarter remaining.
J.C. Shulman opened the fourth with a 3 from the key and Claridy scored on a drive down the lane for a 50-40 lead with 6:27 to play before Reid Conley scored on a putback with 5:47 left.
Claridy then followed with back-to-back three-point plays for a 56-42 McCallie lead with 5:21 left and it never got much closer.
A 3 by Conley from the wing with 3:05 to play got the Chargers within six at 60-54, but McCallie calmly sank nine of 10 charity tosses in that last three minutes to win going away.
“We’ve really worked hard on our free throws in practice as we’ll stop right in the middle of the action and send someone to the line, telling them just how important those are to make and knowing the whole team will run sprints if they miss,” Robison said in reference to their accuracy at the end.
Claridy scored a dozen points in that decisive fourth quarter and ended the game with 21 to lead the Blue Tornado. Robison was next with 20.
Jackson had 29 to lead CCS while Conley was also in double figures with 15.
McCallie had an unofficial 33-27 advantage in rebounds as Claridy led the way for the Blue Tornado with 13. Bryce Kennebrew grabbed seven.
Jermaine Stinson and Jackson both had nine for the Chargers.
McCallie will have their biggest home game of the season on Friday when they host arch-rival Baylor while CCS will be at home on Thursday to host the CHSTEA Patriots.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN GIRLS 69, GPS 34: The Lady Chargers raced to a 24-8 lead after the first quarter and were never seriously challenged as they improved to 17-7 with the win over the Bruisers.
Abriyana Camp, the super-talented eighth grader, scored 21 points to lead CCS while Jaydah Rainey was also in double figures with 13.
Mylee Choate and McKamey Bratcher both scored in double figures to lead GPS with 16 and 11 points, respectively.
GPS 8 12 4 10 – 34
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN 24 18 19 8 -- 69
GPS (34) – Mylee Choate 16, Senowich, O’Keefe, S. Choate, Hicks, House 7, Polk, McKamey Bratcher 11.
CCS (69) – Abriyana Camp 21, Allen 4, Wiechmann 4, Duble, Alexander 2, Brady 7, A. Matthews 7, Er. Matthews 5, Jaydah Rainey 13, Em. Matthews 4, Bray 2.
3-POINT GOALS: GPS 5 (M. Choate 4, Bratcher); CCS 4 (Camp 2, Brady, A. Matthews).
McCALLIE 16 14 15 28 -- 73
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN 10 13 17 19 -- 59
McCALLIE (73) – Kolin Claridy 21, Parker Robison 20, Shulman 8, Kennebrew 9, Millner, Kwasigroch 3, Salter, Hamilton 4, Capazario 2, Smith 3, Polous 3.
CCS (59) – Reid Conley 15, Dre Jackson 29, Huston, Russell 3, Roddy, Wescher 4, Bauldwin 5, Stinson 3.
3-POINT GOALS: McCallie 7 (Robison, Shulman 2, Kwasigroch, Hamilton, Smith, Polous); CCS 6 (Conley 3, Jackson 2, Russell).
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)