Long road trip ends season

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bolivar Central 71, Marshall County 44 was the final score of the Class AA sub-state game that ended the Tigers' season Monday night at Bolivar Central.

Kedren Johnson turned in a game high 23 points in the effort, but it was the team's meager 2-23 from three-point land that sealed their fate.

"We just couldn't get any timely shots or timely stops," said head coach Jason Tigert. "This has been a team that has hit those shots and tonight it just didn't happen."

The Tigers ended the season with a 25-8 record and the careers of some special seniors to coach Tigert.

Seniors Cameron McCullough, Blaise Spencer, Hunter Osborne, and Brandon Burns, along with Johnson the last two years, have lit up the scoreboard for three seasons, brining their exhilarating style of run and gun, shoot, shoot, shoot all the way to sub-state.

Tigert said on the bus after the game, "It is a group that has come a long way since I came here. This is a group of players I have had the pleasure of coaching since their sophomore year. They have just gotten better and better every year. We went from eight wins, to twenty-three, to twenty-five. We went from third place to first place twice and back-to-back district championships. We came from region appearances to sub-state. This has been an exciting group to watch."

The MCHS Tigers and their travelling caravan of coaches, cheerleaders, a physical trainer, the assistant principal, and a lowly sportswriter took a more than unusual journey just to get to Bolivar.

Off went the MCHS bus. It was all a normal departure from MCHS, around noontime, on a chartered Grayline Tour Bus, driven by Ron King, who has been with the company for 18 months.

The usual stuff was taking place on the bus in the opening minutes of the trip. I-Pods were in the fine tuning mode, texting was on full-bars, strategy and study was in the button-up phases, and the anticipation of a Tiger victory was in the air.

Somewhere just about 7 or 8 miles west of Pulaski on 64 W, a beeping sound began to interrupt Sports Center, playing on the bus' 'mini-tube'. Probably just the GPS or something not to worry about until the beeping sound persisted and the bus driver began sweating.

King finally pulled over and was back behind the bus for a while until he came back and informed Tigert that he had blown a water hose and the bus would not be moving.

Not what Tigert or anyone on the bus wanted to hear.

King called his dispatcher and gave Tigert the news that his company would either send another bus, which would take approximately 90 minutes or an emergency roadside mechanic, would be called to come fix the blown hose and re-fill the system with coolant and water.

There was discussion among the coaches and MCHS assistant principal Shonda Sparrow on the course of options available.

Sparrow was in an administrative mode, following all the necessary communicative procedures, while Tigert's coaching wheels were turning, calling Giles County head coach Billy Mayfield.

A decision was made to let the players and coach Tigert travel in some family members' cars that had pulled over behind the bus over to Giles County High School for their pre-game walk thru, previously set-up for McNairy Central, approximately 20 minutes from the final destination.

The players and coach Tigert left for the walk-thru and King informed Sparrow that another bus was the way from Nashville and a mechanic was also in route.

Up pulled Bubba Smith, an emergency road-side mechanic from Lawrenceburg who was coming from another job near Columbia when he got the call about the stranded Grayliner.

In the day, Smith played basketball at Loretto.

"They absolutely have to win now," said Smith as he poured in the last few gallons of coolant.

The work was done and the bus was under way around 2:20pm, bound for Giles County High School.

Boyd West navigated King to Giles County High School where the second bus sent by the company was arriving.

The gear and passengers switched buses and left off for the game, back on schedule, piloted by King.

After a stop in Waynesboro for some Mickey D's, Bolivar Central was next.

The Tigers arrived in Bolivar around 6pm and went thorough the usual warm-up drills in preparation for their battle versus their namesake Tigers.

Kedren Johnson scored the game's first bucket and the Tigers were on the board. Bolivar's Jonathon Hodge drained a three-pointer, electrifying the already roasting crowd.

It was like a sauna in the gym.

Johnson drove the lane for a score, making it 4-3 before Hodge drilled two more threes for a 9-4 lead.

Blaise Spencer got three of those back on a trey for the Tigers. Bolivar scored five straight before Spencer answered with another three-pointer, making it 14-10.

The hometown Tigers went on a run and gun 8-1 spurt ending the quarter to lead 22-15 after the first period.

Bolivar kept on moving forward while the Tigers went cold from the field, falling behind by as much as eleven points before coming back late to trail 29-22, the same seven-point deficit they started the quarter with.

The Marshall Tigers would claw, just trying to stay close while having the off-target night and would get as close as seven points again in the third before trailing by nine at 43-34 after three periods.

Johnson was keeping the Tigers in the ballgame with some great offense in the fourth period, scoring 6 points, but that was not nearly enough as Bolivar pulled way ahead, outscoring MCHS 28-10 in the final period to advance to the state tournament and ending the 2008-2009 season for the Tigers.