Tyner Hammers Brainerd for 4AA Crown

Henderson Leads Rams To Sixth Title In Last Eight Seasons

  • Tuesday, February 20, 2024
  • James Beach

Tyner coach E'Jay Ward did his best to downplay what took place in Tuesday night's District 4AA championship. Or at least the best one can downplay a 75-44 victory over one's biggest rivalry.

The Rams (22-4) came out firing on all cylinders, rushing to a 20-point lead before the half, and clamped down tight on a dark side of the moon cold Brainerd squad in the annual renewal of the two programs district championship meeting.

Either Tyner or Brainerd has played for the district hardware in 22 of the past 23 events, and it was the Rams seventh straight trip to the tourney finals and their sixth championship in the past eight years. And while winning the event never gets old, Ward was matter of fact in his appraisal.

"It was a nice win. I mean Brainerd is Brainerd, but everyone knows the season starts in the region. It was a good quality win, but they will be back. We built our whole season to get ready for the next couple of weeks, and tonight was a good step in the right direction," said Ward, who won his 151st game as the Tyner boss of seven seasons.

No one knows better that nothing else matters until you get to elimination games, and the Panthers always seem peak when tourney time arrives. Despite losing nine straight regular season games going back to the 2021 season to these Rams, Brainerd has beaten them in the last two region finals when it counted.

"Yeah it was another level of focus for us tonight, and honestly, it's all about getting ours back. We were aware of the past couple of postseasons so we wanted to set the tone tonight. Regular season games don't mean as much," said Tyner's Rodney Henderson, the Rams heart and soul.

Henderson, just a junior, torched the Panthers for 28 points, including 26 through the first three periods before sitting most of the final period. But he had lots of help, namely Zion Pinkerton and Kohl Ward, but also a couple of guys named Robert Wilson and Javion Dixson, whose true worth in this one won't show up in the boxscore.

It was Wilson, a senior who broke his leg prior to postseason a year ago, who started and allowed Tyner to play an aggressive zone defense knowing he manned the middle to clean up anything that came in the lane.

"It was a big game for us. We had to let everyone know who Tyner is and we wanted to set the tone early," said Wilson, who had all eight of his points in the first half.

Fellow senior Dixson came off the bench and was one of those aggressors on defense who helped contest every Brainerd outside shot, resulting in the Panthers missing 21 of their first 28 shots.

"We like to play zone because it keeps us moving. It's all about communication and knowing where the shooters are and contesting every shot. It's easier taking a few gambles knowing big Rob is there to protect the inside too," said Dixson.

The Rams jumped out to an early 16-6 lead after the first as Brainerd made just three first quarter shots, but it was an 11-0 run midway through the second that put this one away, punctuated by fastbreak led by Dixson who passed on the easy layup to loft it high off the backboard for a trailing Henderson to jam it home.

"That's just the type of player that Dixson is. He cheers us on when he's on the bench, plays with effort on defense, and passes up an easy layup for the highlight slam," praised Ward.

The Rams added another 12-0 run late in the half as Pinkerton had 11 in the period and Tyner led it 41-16 at the break. Brainerd played better in the second half and Trea Shaw had nine of his team-high 13 in the third, but with Henderson scoring at will (six in the first, seven in the second and 13 in the third), making up ground was too high of a hurdle.

Tyner's biggest lead was 34 points as subs played the final four minutes of the game, but the 31-point margin is believed to be the largest win by the Rams in the rivalry. Tyner shot 65 percent in the first half (19 of 29) and finished at 54 percent (30 of 56) while Brainerd  was 25 percent (7 of 28) in the first half and just 28 percent (15 of 53) for the game.

Aside from Henderson's 28 and Pinkerton's 17, Ward added nine and ran the point guard slot to perfection. Shaw was the only Panther in double digits.

Tyner will host Sweetwater Saturday night while Brainerd gets Tellico Plains as both squads look at getting back to the CSAS court for next week's Region semis and a shot at hosting a sectional game.    .       

CSAS 65, Bledsoe County 53:. The Patriots got off to a hot start, built a 20-point lead into the third period and cruised on their home court to grab the third place prize. Now they must go on the road to earn their way back to their home court for next week's Region event.

CSAS will travel to McMinn Central on Saturday night for the region opener.

"We know what's at stake: one win to get back home. That's how we will approach it over the next couple of days. We won on the road last year, so we know what it takes. Honestly, we were not expecting to be playing in a consolation game at 6 o'clock tonight, and it showed at times. It got sloppy after we got the 20-point lead," said CSAS coach Zach Dragoo.

The Patriots earned the second seed for the event on their home court, but lost to Brainerd in the semis to find themselves in the consolation game. CSAS placed four players in double figures led by Alex Lowry with 13 and CC Smith with 12. Chris McDonald and Phillip Moss each chipped in 10 as the Patriots took care of business with 38-22 halftime lead.

Bledsoe was led by Jordan Simmons' 18 while Riley Robertson added 12 and Jace Rains another 10. The Warriors will travel to 3AA champ Kingston on Saturday night for the Region opener.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Jace Rains (Bledsoe), Alex Lowry (CSAS), Chris McDonald (CSAS), Ashton Munson (Brainerd), Kendrick Jones (Brainerd), Anthony Byrd (Brainerd), Trea Shaw (Brainerd), Zion Pinkerton (Tyner), Kohl Ward (Tyner) Adarius Brewster (Tyner) MVP Rodney Henderson (Tyner),  














BLEDSOE CO  (53) -- Jace Rains 10, Jordan Simmons 18, A. Rains, Bridges 2, Thomas 2, Riley Robertson 18, Rankin, Colvard 8.

ARTS & SCIENCES  (65) -- Alex Lowry 13, Hetrick, Wheeler 9, Parris, Foster 2, CC Smith 12, Chris McDonald 10, Wright 2, Phillip Moss 10, Chubb, Bone, Hall 7.

3-point goals: Bledsoe 4 (Simmons 2, Robertson 2); CSAS 7 (Lowry 2, Wheeler 2, Moss 2, Hall)

Records: Bledsoe County 12-13 ; CSAS 10-9..

Up Next: Bledsoe at Kingston (23-5) and CSAS at McMinn Central (16-12) Saturday night Region action.














BRAINERD (44) -- Munson 8, Trea Shaw 13, Ja.Smith 4, Martin 6, Jackson 5, Byrd 2, Pinkerton, Jo.Smith, Jones 6.

TYNER (75) -- Smith 2, Allen, Rodney Henderson 28, Zion Pinkerton 17, Brewster 6, Ford, Wilson 8, Harper 2, Dixson 3, Ward 9.

3-point goals: Brainerd 7 (Shaw 2, Martin 2, Jones 2, Jackson); Tyner 2 (Pinkerton, Ward) .

Records: Brainerd 11-11,  Tyner 22-4

Up Next: Brainerd hosts Tellico Plains (20-8) and Tyner hosts Sweetwater (10-16) in Saturday Region play.

(Contact James Beach at 1134james@gmail.com)

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