LMS boys torch North in first Haile round
Having finished second in the James C. Haile Tournament last year, the Lewisburg Middle School Tigers (10-4) appear poised to make another deep run this season after crushing the North Gators 58-23 on Saturday night at Middle Tennessee Christian School in the first round of the Class AAA bracket.
The Tigers were never seriously challenged by North (5-10) and built a 39-17 lead in the first half before outscoring the Gators 19-6 over the final two quarters to cruise to the 35-point victory.
"I think this is a confident group and they expect to win this tournament. They know our program's history and it's just an expectation now," said Lewisburg coach David Lovell, who has won four TMSAA Sectional championships during his tenure at LMS.
With Saturday's win, the Tigers advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament where they will face Cornerstone on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.
Bolstered by a 15-of-28 shooting performance in the first half, Lewisburg shot 44 percent (24-of-55) from the field overall, which included a 5-of-16 effort from three-point range. The Tigers also committed just four turnovers, outrebounded North 27-25, and held a 17-8 edge on the offensive glass.
The Gators had no answer for LMS' backcourt duo of K.J. Johnson and Wesley Walker, as Johnson poured in a game high 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while Walker hit 6-of-12 shots and finished with 14 points, four steals, and four assists.
Keshun Gentry also tallied seven points, while Andrew Gold and Mitchell Ford chipped in five and three points respectively. Hunter Haurez, Devon Wilson, Kavares Tears, McKenley Horton, Drew Jimenez, and Canelius Turner rounded out the scoring for the Tigers with two points apiece.
The Gators, conversely, mustered only eight field goals on 33 percent shooting and missed all six attempts from beyond the arc while Lewisburg recorded 16 steals and forced 22 North turnovers. Dylan Welchel paced the Gators with six points and Luke Owens added five points.
The Tigers put the hammer down early and forged an 18-5 lead in the first quarter behind seven points from Gentry, five points from Johnson, and a pair of Walker layups.
After the Gators narrowed the gap to 20-9 early in the second period on two baskets by Owens, Lewisburg responded with a 13-2 spurt, highlighted by a couple of treys from Walker and Mitchell, to open up a 33-11 cushion.
North tallied four of the next five points to trim the deficit to 34-15 before Johnson sandwiched a running bank shot and a three around two Gator free throws to stake LMS to a 39-17 advantage at halftime.
The third quarter brought more of the same, as the Tigers put together an 11-3 run with the help of five points from Walker and four points from Johnson to stretch their lead to 50-20.
"A big point of emphasis was coming out and taking it to them in terms of our energy and ball pressure. In the third quarter, we just talked about maintaining our level of play," said Lovell.
Wallace hit one-of-two free throws early in the fourth period to make it 50-21 before Lewisburg outscored North 8-2 the rest of the way thanks to baskets from Tears, Horton, Jimenez, and Turner to cap their 58-23 triumph.