MUSIC CITY UPSET
Marshall County coach Arnett Bodenhamer has drilled one word---believe--- in to the heads of his players entering a post-season where the Tigers have endured several close calls, but have remained in the hunt with some heavy late game drama.
Not a single person outside of the Marshall County (17-14) faithful believed the Tigers had much of chance against heavily favored Maplewood (23-6) on Monday night in the Class AA Sectionals at Nashville, but with four seconds left, Curtis Keiler took an inbound pass and went up and over a Maplewood defender to score the game winning layup as the Tigers shocked the Mid-State with a 56-54 upset win over the sixth-ranked Panthers.
To the state
The Tigers advance to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's 2016 BlueCross Basketball Championships at MTSU on Thursday March 16.
"These guys believe," Bodenhamer said. "I've asked these guys to sacrifice for the past three days and that's what they did. They put everything out there. We've fought, we've been through adversity before----down five points, that's nothing."
"They put everything out there," Bodenhamer, who started his coaching career at Maplewood added. "It's just one game and these jokers came and they brought it today. They put the whole Marshall County, Lewisburg on their back and said, 'let's go', we're going to Murfreesboro."
DeAndre Brown continued his stellar post-season play, scoring 18 of his game-high 22 points in the first half to go along with 12 rebounds and two assists.
"This win feels really good because we came in with a confident mindset to seize the moment while we have it," Brown said. "This is a place we haven't been to in a while, so once we got here we had to take advantage of it.
Caleb Fields added 14 points and six assists, Malek Sain chipped in 10 points, three rebounds, and three assists and Darius McKenzie finished with six boards and two points for the Tigers.
The Tigers deployed an intense full court press on the usually high-scoring Panthers and Maplewood seemed confused by the pressure throughout the contest, culminating in 20 second half points and allowing just four Panther players to score in the game.
The Tigers also held Class AA Mr. Basketball finalist Bo Hodges to 22 points, but most importantly zero points in the pivotal third quarter and just six in the final period, while holding the Panthers to just its fifth lowest point total of the entire season.
Hodges started the game off as good as advertised, scoring nine first quarter points and Brandon Ingram added eight as the Panthers were off and running to an early 13-6 edge.
DeAndre Brown led the Tiger rally with eight first quarter points and a Sain triple with less than three minutes left in the quarter cut the lead to 18-16.
Hodges nailed another jumper and Hassan Littlepage nailed a 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer to extend the Maplewood lead to 25-19.
Brown took over the second quarter with 5:40 left in the half, scoring on an offensive rebound and after a Sain jumper closed the lead to three points, Brown nailed a 3-pointer and moments later he hit two free throws to tie the game up for the first time at 31-31.
The third quarter belonged to the Tigers defense after an Alex McKissack 3-pointer gave the Panthers a 41-35 lead as Marshall County would allow just two more points for the remainder of the period and after six Fields' points, Brown hit a layup with 55 seconds remaining in the stanza, giving the Tigers their first lead of the game at 43-41.
The Panthers stole the momentum back in the fourth quarter when Whiteside scored five points to put Maplewood up 50-43 with 5:26 left in the game and the wind seemingly leaving the Tigers' sails.
"In the fourth quarter we just had to stick to what coach said," Sain stated. "Believe, believe, believe--he's been preaching that to us for two straight weeks. This could've been our last time out here, but we refused to go home."
The tide quickly changed for the Tigers as Sain scored on a steal and score, followed by a Fields layup to cut the lead down to three at 52-49 when an unlikely hero stepped up and put the team on his back.
With just over a minute left in the game, Sain found a wide open Keiler in the corner, who knocked down the 3-pointer to tie the game at 52-52.
"I just knew that I had to knock it down," Keiler said. "It was a clutch shot. I just knew I had to knock it down if we wanted to have a chance at winning the game."
Hodges would score on a layup on the next possession to give the Panthers the 54-52 lead with 56 seconds left, but Sain would nail two free throws to tie the game, setting up a magical moment in Tiger basketball history.
The Panthers wound down the clock and put the ball in pre-season All-American Bo Hodges' hands for the final shot, but as time ticked away and Hodges started the charge to the basket, he slipped and the ball rolled out of bounds giving the Tigers one more chance for the win.
Ahead to stay
With four seconds remaining the Tigers called on Keiler once again and the senior forward nailed a highly contested layup with 1.8 seconds remaining to put MCHS in front for good.
Maplewood got off a long shot at the buzzer, but it was no good as Marshall County stole the unlikely win.
"We tried to get Malek open in the corner, but if he wasn't open I was supposed to slip down and try and get that kind of shot," an elated Keiler said. "I just wanted to try and find a way to get (the shot) in. I almost wanted to cry after the ball went in because it's crazy how we're finally going to the state."
The Tigers will head to the state tournament for the first time since the 2008-09 season as an unlikely underdog with the worst record out of the eight participants, but if this season has shown one thing about the Tigers it's that this team and the town believe they can beat anyone on any given day.
The Tigers take on Fayette Ware (24-8) from Somerville in next Thursday's first round 2A 2016 Bluecross Class AA State Boys' Basketball Tournament action at 1:15 p.m. on the campus of MTSU in the Charles M. Murphy Athletic Center.
The Region 7 AA Wildcats, like the Tigers are second place finishers in the region tournament and the winner will face the victor between seventh-ranked Chattanooga Central (20-6) and third-ranked Knoxville Fulton (29-2)on Friday March 18 at 4:30 p.m. The Class AA title game is Saturday March 19 at 6 p.m.
The bottom half of the bracket has Brainerd (28-5) vs. CAK (23-10) and No. 2 Westview (27-3)vs. Whites Creek (21-11), who knocked out CPA Monday night.
Only four-out-of-ten ranked teams in the Final Associated Press Poll released on February 15 are still playing.
Marshall County 19 14 10 13-56
Maplewood 25 11 5 15-54
Marshall County: DeAndre Brown 22 Caleb Fields 14, Malek Sain 10, Curtis Keiler 5, Donathan Tears 3, Tre Crutcher 2, Darius McKenzie 2, Keevon Maxwell 1.
Maplewood (54): Bo Hodges 22, Hassan Littlepage 16, Alex McKissack 8, DeShawn Johnson 8.
3-point goals: Marshall County-Sain 2, Brown 1, Keiler 1; Maplewood-McKissack 2, Littlepage 2 Hodges 1.
Halftime score-Maplewood 36, Marshall County 33.