The Lewisburg Middle School Tigers (17-1) ended a stellar season in grand fashion Saturday night when they defeated the Harpeth Indians 41-29 at Loretto High School to capture the Tennessee Middle School Athletic Association Mid-State Tournament championship.
LMS had crushed Charlotte and Cheatham County in the first two rounds of the tournament, but couldn't find their offensive rhythm in the first half against Harpeth and trailed 17-14 at the break. The Tigers, however, saved their best for last and outscored the Indians 27-12 over the final two quarters with the help of a tremendous second half performance by Kevin Peterson en route to claiming their seventeenth straight victory.
When asked how winning the TMSAA Mid-State title changes the expectations of Lewisburg's middle school and high school programs in the coming years, LMS head coach David Lovell responded, "For the middle school program, it kind of sets the bar that we want to win this every year. As for the high school program, I look for these guys to go on and continue to win championships at that level."
The Tigers made just 5 of 20 shots in the first half against Harpeth's 1-3-1 zone, but found the range after intermission and hit 9 of 14 field goal attempts over the final two quarters, including three three-pointers, to finish 14 of 34 from the floor overall.
Lewisburg, meanwhile, limited Harpeth to just 11 field goals on 28 percent shooting.
"We couldn't have shot the ball any worse in the first half. We got the shots we wanted but they just weren't falling. The biggest difference was that we picked up our defensive intensity in the second half. We were able to force some turnovers to get our fast break going," said Lovell.
After torching Cheatham County for 32 points in his previous outing, Peterson came up big when LMS needed him the most, as he scored 15 of his game high 21 points in the second half to go along with six rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
"I challenged him at halftime that this is the situation where great players put the team on their back and he did that. He's a great player and he's got good teammates around him," said Lovell.
Jalen Jones followed Peterson with seven points, while Jesse Kilpatrick and Barry Mayes both had four points. Malik Crawford (three points) and Mariel Nicholson (two points) rounded out the scoring for Lewisburg with Nicholson also pulling down a game high 11 rebounds.
Tanner Newton and Austin Brown paced the Indians with 10 and nine points respectively.
Harpeth took an early 8-2 lead before the Tigers cut the deficit to 8-6 early in the second quarter thanks to field goals by Peterson and Nicholson.
After the Indians responded with a 9-4 spurt to open up a 17-10 late in the second, Peterson converted one of two free throws prior to knocking down a three from the left corner to narrow the gap to 17-14 at the break.
Lewisburg then completely seized the momentum in the third and began the quarter with a 15-0 run on the strength of seven points from Peterson and a pair of treys from Jones to pull ahead 30-17.
Harpeth sliced the deficit to 33-29 with 2:20 left in the fourth, but the Indians failed to score again while the Tigers tallied the final eight points of the contest on six free throws and an offensive put back by Peterson to seal the 41-29 victory.