LMS Tigers shoot down Aviators in tournament

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Lewisburg's K.J. Johnson hits a runner in the second quarter against Winfree Bryant. Tribune photos by Louis G. Scheuchenzuber

Although the Lewisburg Middle School Tigers were unable to defend their TMSAA Class AA Sectional championship after being bumped up in classification this past year, LMS began their pursuit of a different title on Saturday night when they hammered the Winfree Bryant Aviators 47-24 in the quarterfinals of the James C. Haile Invitational Tournament at Middle Tennessee Christian School.

Playing in the Class AAA bracket of the tournament, the Tigers (10-6) took charge of Saturday's contest early and never looked back, as they built a 23-13 lead in the first half before opening up a 45-18 advantage early in the fourth quarter en route to claiming their third straight victory.

Shots fall

Bolstered by an 8-of-13 shooting performance in the third period, Lewisburg shot 45 percent (21-of-47) from the field overall, which included a 2-of-10 effort from three-point range, while committing just nine turnovers.

Winfree Bryant, conversely, mustered just 10 field goals on 26 percent shooting and missed all seven attempts from beyond the arc. The Aviators did outrebound the Tigers 26-20 and held a 9-4 edge on the offensive glass, but were hamstrung by 17 turnovers.

"I think the guys were excited about the chance to win a championship. We finally committed to playing team defense which got our fast break going. I don't think they were expecting how quick we change from defense to offense and how fast we get the ball down the court," said LMS coach David Lovell, who has led the Tigers to four Sectional titles over the last five years.

Lewisburg's Wesley Walker scores on a layup in the third quarter against Winfree Bryant.

K.J. Johnson burned Winfree Bryant for several transition layups and led Lewisburg with a career high 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Caleb Fields also tallied 14 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, while Wesley Walker added nine points. Hunter Haurez and Keshun Gentry chipped in two and one point respectively as well. Kamron Liggett-Hightower failed the to score for LMS, but recorded five rebounds, four steals, and three assists.

Important cogs

"If we're going to win a championship, it's going to be critical to have K.J. Wesley, and Kamron step up because teams are going to key on Caleb," said Lovell.

Kito Aruh paced the Aviators with 10 points, while Kemon Neuble notched four points.

The Tigers got off to a good start and jumped out to an 8-3 lead late in the first quarter thanks to four points from Johnson and a pair of baskets from Fields and Walker.

Winfree Bryant cut the deficit to 8-5 on a short bank shot by Elijah Terry with :52 left in the first period, but Lewisburg responded with a 9-0 spurt behind seven points from Johnson to open up a 17-5 advantage midway through the second quarter.

After Aruh tallied eight of the next 12 points to narrow the gap to 21-13, Fields scored on an offensive put back as time expired in the half to make it 23-13 before hitting a layup at the start of the third period to push LMS' lead to 25-13.

Winning run

The Aviators outscored the Tigers 5-3 over the next 1:42 to trim the deficit to 28-18, but Lewisburg blew the game wide open by putting together a 17-0 run on the strength of eight points from Johnson and four points apiece from Fields and Walker to forge a 45-18 advantage with 4:07 left in the fourth quarter.

Winfree Bryant then notched six of the last eight points for the 47-24 final.