No Shocker: Tyner, Brainerd Set For 2AA Title Bout

Rams Drop McMinn Central and Panthers Edge Kingston

  • Wednesday, February 28, 2024
  • James Beach

It is a tale that stands the test of time, a perpetual truth, a given as certain as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. The Region 2AA basketball tournament is a District 4AA invitational only event when it comes to the last dance.

For the 11th consecutive season the Region 2AA championship will feature a pair of District 4AA squads in the finale on Thursday night when Tyner (24-5) battles Brainerd (14-14) in the 7 o'clock tip at CSAS.

Tyner fought back from an eight-point deficit to drop McMinn Central, 58-53, in Tuesday night's opener and Brainerd followed suit by climbing out of a nine-point hole to stun District 3 champ Kingston, 69-65, in the nightcap.

"Our league has been blessed to have some outstanding players through the years, so yeah, this is what we have come to expect," said Brainerd coach Levar Brown, his Panthers doing their annual postseason blossom. "It's all about rising to the occasion and meeting the expectations of being Brainerd."

The Panthers and the Rams will meet for the third consecutive year in the finals and the Thursday bout will be about which team has the biggest chip on their shoulder. Brainerd has won the last two region title battles, a point of contention Tyner will surely talk about over the next day or so while the Panthers are still freshly stung from a 31-point loss less than a week ago to these same Rams.

"We just wanted another opportunity. We saved the season tonight and now it will be all about being mentally tough. All passion and no emotion and lock in mentally," added Brown of the rematch.

It will the fifth consecutive region title game for Tyner and seventh in eight seasons and Brainerd's eighth in the past 10 postseasons. It will be the fifth time in that span the two proud programs have met in the title bout with Brainerd winning three of the past four.

Both teams are guaranteed a Sectional game with the winner getting a host spot and the loser having to win on the road to make the field of eight in Murfreesboro. The last time a team other than District 4AA played for the title was in 2013 when McMinn Central won the crown against Howard.

Tyner 58, McMinn Central 53: With the Rams missing all 12 of their 3-point attempts, turning the ball over an uncharacteristic 21 times and watching the Chargers run off a 17-0 run to end the second and open the third periods, Tyner saw its fine season slipping away in the winner-go-home game. McMinn Central came into the game full strength after having its best player from a year ago sidelined the entire regular season to illness, and it looked as if senior Gabe Masingale would get at least two more games under his belt after returning to the team last week.

Unfortunately for the Chargers, they, like so many others this year, ran into a Rodney Henderson problem. The star Tyner player only managed four shots in the first half and had his worst half of the season as McMinn Central scored the final 12 points of the half to turn a 23-14 deficit into a 26-23 halftime lead. But with all the momentum on its side, the Chargers found out the hard way that you can't keep a great player down.

Henderson scored 17 points in the final 16 minutes, including 13 in the final period to carry the Rams across the finish line.

"It was all about just finding a way to win. Rodney was a little discombobulated in the first half, but in Rod we trust. He stepped up. It's almost March, and that's when the really good ones make their presence felt. He did that tonight. And he did it not only with the scoring, but the two big steals and two really big rebounds," said Tyner coach E'Jay Ward of his stud.

After the Chargers scored the first five points of the second half to make it 31-23, the Rams held them without a field goal over the final seven minutes. Henderson's layup with 2:15 left in the quarter finally got it back to even at 32-all and the Rams never trailed again. Adarius Brewster, who was a mad man throughout the night with his energy and hustle, got an offensive rebound and put back to close the period with Tyner up 36-32.

Tyner used a full court press to get back in it, forcing eight turnovers in the third and 23 for the game. Henderson twice drove to the basket in the final period and scored through contact and converted three-point plays and Zion Pinkerton's dunk put Tyner on top 51-45 with 2:22 remaining. From there, the Rams forced the Chargers to foul and connected on seven free throws down the stretch to close it out.

"We just have to play Tyner basketball. Ever since I was a little kid my dad always told me to only think of the next play, and that's what we did tonight when things didn't go our way for a bit. I've been to the state tournament before and I've faced adversity at a high level, so I wasn't afraid to do whatever I had to in order to win. My teammates trusted me, and together we got the job done," said Henderson, who finished with a game-high 22.

Freshman Kohl Ward added 11 points and Brewster another 10 to go along with stingy defense from both, and Ricky Harper stepped up to throttle Charger big man Will Benton off the bench. Benton scored McMinn Central's first eight points, but between foul trouble and Harper coming in, he was held scoreless the rest of the game.

"There was a crucial stage of the game where Adarius (Brewster) carried us when things were not going our way. He brings a lot of energy that we feed off," praised Ward.

Raymond McCarty led the Chargers with 13 while Carter Anderson chipped in 11 and Will Cooper another 10, but turnovers and eight missed free throws hurt the cause. Tyner shot 22 of 51 from the floor (43 percent) but was much better in the final half , passing on 3-pointers after missing nine of them in the first half, and getting it to the basket.

McMinn Central (17-13) hit 21 of 47 shots (45 percent).

Brainerd 69, Kingston 65:  Kingston came into the semis having won nine in a row and 14 of its last 15 in filling out a 24-win resume that most felt would be good enough to carry the Jackets a long way. Of course, they really haven't faced much adversity this year in dominating folks, and that was the one thing the Panthers had plenty of on their resume.

"We started the season 0-5 and these kids are young, and they could have easily given up, but they didn't. That's a really good team we beat tonight, and when things looked bad for us, the kids responded. We didn't fold," said Brown of the big win.

Kingston jumped out to a 9-1 lead from the tip and looked in control throughout despite the fact the Panthers just kept hanging around. Ethan Clifton's fast break layup midway through the second period capped a 12-5 run and put the Jackets up 26-17, and even when Brainerd forced four turnovers in the stretch run to make a 7-2 run, Kingston closed the half with a 3 at the buzzer by Parker Jones to make it 33-26 at the break.

Ashton Munson provided a spark to start the third with seven quick points to get it back to 40-38, and that's when senior Trea Shaw decided to join the party. Shaw, who had just one bucket in the first half, hit a big 3 following a layup to knot it at 43-all and Kendrick Jones' floater to close the third gave Brainerd its first lead of the night at 49-47.

A quick 6-0 spurt to open the fourth really put pressure on Kingston, who turned it over six times in the final stanza. It was Shaw, at this point, who took over the game, scoring all 12 of Brainerd's points during the stretch run. Kingston refused to go gently, though, rallying from a 59-50 deficit to get as close as 63-60, but six free throws over the final 43 seconds nailed it down.

"This is my senior year, and I just said this can't be my last game," said Shaw, who had 20 second-half points to finish with 22. "My teammates and my coaches they believed in me and I felt that. I didn't have a good first half, but they kept lifting me up. I felt it in my heart with this team, and I wasn't going to go quietly," said Shaw.

Munson left it all on the floor as well, finishing with 17 and Kobe Jackson added another 10 as Brainerd hit 24 of 61 shots (39 percent) but forced 21 turnovers to offset the shooting woes. They also knocked down 10 of 14 free throws in the final half.

Kingston placed four in double digits with Corey Raymer popping for 15, Aaron Layne 12 and Malachi Brown and Clifton each netting 11. The Jackets were 22 of 61 (36 percent) from the field but managed just 20 second half shots after launching 41 in the first half.


BRAINERD               10        16        23        20        --          69

KINGSTON               14        19        14        18        --          65

BRAINERD (69) -- Ashton Munson 17, Trea Shaw 22, Ja.Smith 2, Martin 6, Kobe Jackson 10, Byrd 2, Jo. Smith 2, Jones 8. 

KINGSTON (65) -- Brackett, Jones 9, O'Leary 3, Guether, Aaron Layne 12, Malachi Brown 11, Herrell 4, Corey Raymer 15, Ethan Clifton 11.

3-point goals: Brainerd 5 (Munson, Shaw, Martin, Jackson, Jones): Kingston 6 (Jones 3, Brown 2, Raymer).

Records: Brainerd (14-14), Kingston (24-6)


McMINN CENTRAL             11        15         6         21        --          53

TYNER                                   15          8        13        22        --          58

MCMINN CENTRAL (53) -- Carter Anderson 11, Spradling 3, Goodin, Masingale 8, Will Cooper 10, Raymond McCarty 13, Bystry, Benton 8.

TYNER (58) -- Rodney Henderson 22, Pinkerton 9, Adarius Brewster 10, Moore 2, Wilson, Beeson, Harper 4, Dixson, Kohl Ward 11. 

3-point goals: McMinn Central 4 (Anderson 2, Cooper, McCarty); Tyner 0.

Records: McMinn Central (17-13), Tyner (24-5)

(Contact James Beach at



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