Bonner Leads Red Bank To Sectional Win

Senior Scores 27 As Lions Advance To State With 56-49 Victory

  • Monday, March 4, 2024
  • John Hunt

The Red Bank Lions lost to McCallie in their final home game during the regular season on Senior Night, but they haven’t lost since.

That winning streak of six games includes a District 6-AAA championship and a Region 3-AAA title too. And now it also includes a Sectional title after they rallied to beat Lawrence County on Monday night at the Susan Ingram Thurman Gymnasium.  The Lions have also won 13 of their last 14 games.

It wasn’t easy as the Wildcats bolted to a 17-8 lead after the first quarter, but the game belonged to the Lions the rest of the way as they pulled away for a 56-49 victory, earning their first spot at the TSSAA state tournament, which will begin for boys on Wednesday, March 13.

Red Bank will play its first game on Thursday at 4 p.m. against Creek Wood, a 53-48 winner over Portland on Monday night.

This has been an amazing season for coach Nick Fike and his Lions as they improved to 28-7 with Monday’s win. Fike was as excited as anyone when the final horn sounded.

“I’m almost speechless right now, but it came down to defense and that’s what we’ve taken the most pride in all season,” Fike said while Red Bank players, parents, school administrators and other fans mingled on the court following the win.

“We have shown that we can score a lot of points and win big, but we’re also capable of winning close games like this. I challenged them at the half to keep believing and to keep doing what we’ve done all year.

“Drayden Collier’s 3 right before the half was huge as it cut their lead to four and gave us a bunch of momentum going into the halftime break. We knew what we had to do to win this game and playing at home was definitely an advantage.

“And now we get to practice for another week and a half as we get ready for Murfreesboro,” he said after getting the honor of cutting the final loop of the net on the Red Bank end of the court.

Anthony Bonner has been the Red Bank captain and leading scorer all year and he was just glad to help his teammates win their biggest game of the year to this point.

“We got down on ourselves a little bit at the start, but this is what we’ve worked for all season. I told my teammates that if they needed someone to lean on that I was that guy, but the defense was the key and we did a great job of holding them at the end,” the 18-year-old senior said.

Lawrence County coach Bryce Clifft knew that Monday’s game would be a huge challenge for his team and it was, but he was still pleased with the effort despite the final score.

“That was a tough one,” he began as he stood just outside the Wildcat dressing room following the game.

“Red Bank did a great job as that was two great teams playing, but things went cold for us in the second half. We knew that Red Bank would make a run and that we had to weather the storm, but we just weren’t quite able to do that.

“I thought we played with a lot of effort, but we sort of came unraveled at the end. Red Bank was fast and physical and played under control the whole way, so give them a lot of credit,” he added after his team’s season came to an end at 25-7.

Bonner scored Red Bank’s first bucket to start the game and teammate Malik Rizer gave the Lions a 4-2 lead with a putback two minutes into the game, but the Wildcats were playing great basketball at the start and hitting most of the shots they took as they finished the quarter on a 15-2 run for a 17-8 lead at the first break.

The Wildcats brought a nice group of fans to support their team. They were really loud and happy at the start, but they got mighty quiet in the second half as the Lions started their comeback.

The biggest lead for the visitors was nine points five occasions in the first half, the last time at 28-19 with 1:13 left before the break when Alex Bedford sank a jumper from the line.

Bonner then made two free throws with 37.9 seconds left before Collier swished a 3 from the corner as the halftime horn sounded to give Red Bank a huge lift at the break.

The Lions scored 10 of the first 14 points in the third quarter to take a 34-32 lead after Kendrick Lloyd scored back-to-back buckets midway through the third.

The Wildcats regained the lead for the last time with five straight points, the last on a 3 from Wes Brewer from the corner for a 37-34 lead with 2:47 left in the third.

Bonner converted a three-point play while teammates Collier and Landon Crutcher followed with buckets for a 41-37 lead with 33 seconds left.

T.J. Gobble converted a layup with 11 seconds showing to get Lawrence County within 41-39 with one quarter remaining.

The Wildcats never regained the lead, but the knotted the score at 48-48 following a 3 from the corner by Blake Long with 4:11 to play.

Bonner then took matters into his own hands and scored six straight points while Lloyd added a bucket of his own for a 56-48 lead with 33 seconds left.

Bedford then made one of three free throws with 10.1 seconds left for the final seven-point margin.

Bonner was tops for the Lions with his 27 points, including 14 in the first half and 13 in the second. Lloyd was next with nine and led the Red Bank rebounders with nine as both teams grabbed 27.

Bedford was tops for Lawrence County with 21 points that included 11 in the first quarter. The 6-3 junior also led his team with a dozen rebounds. Colton Tucker was also in double figures for the Wildcats as he finished with 10.

LAWRENCE CO. 17 11 11 10 -- 49

RED BANK 8 16 17 15 -- 56

LAWRENCE CO. (49) – Brewer 3, Alex Bedford 21, Gobble 8, Long 5, Boswell, Fields 2, Colton Tucker 10, Morgan.

RED BANK (56) – Collier 5, Anthony Bonner 27, Rice 4, Johnson 3, Lloyd 9, Rizer 4, Crutcher 2, Wilbur 2.

3-Point Goals: Lawrence Co. 4 (Brewer, Bedford, Long, Tucker); Red Bank 2 (Collier, Johnson).

(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@gmail.com)

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