Tigers capture first district title in 15 years

Friday, February 24, 2017
The 2016-2017 District 12AA champions Marshall County High School Tigers.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The past 15 years, the Marshall County Tigers have won three region championships, three sectional champions, made three trips to the state championships in Murfreesboro, winning three games including a state final appearance in 2001-02 and a state semifinal appearance in 2009-10.

During a four year period (2007-11) the Tigers experienced total district dominance with a 54-2 regular season district record over the span, but in all those years of great Tiger basketball accomplishments one thing Marshall County was never able to claim was a district championship--losing five different times in the final game including the past two seasons against recent league powerhouse Christ Presbyterian Academy.

All of that changed on Tuesday night in Rudderville as Marshall County flexed its muscles in a dominant 75-55 win over Giles County in the District 12AA title game at Page High School for the programs first district tournament title since the turn of the century.

"Iím really proud of the guys man," MCHS coach Arnett Bodenhamer said. "I just think about what if we would have played the third and fourth quarters like we played the first and second."

"I'm happy for the guys and the community because this is the first district championship in a long time," Bodenhamer added. "This was for the kids."

District 12AA Tournament MVP Caleb Fields (00) saves the ball from going out of bounds in the first half.

The Tigers were led by district tournament MVP Caleb Fields, who scored 17 points and dished out six assists and all-district performer KJ Johnson led the team with a game-high 22 points and three rebounds.

"This meant a lot, especially the district championship because we knew that it hadn't been done in a long time," Johnson said. "We wanted to focus on the overall win and not make the game bigger than it really was."

Jay Howard added a double-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals while a third all-district recipient, D'Andre Brown chipped in 10 points and five rebounds.

"Man this means everything," Howard said. "Like you said, it's my last year here and I just came back on the team for my senior year. So it's definitely a blessing to be able to do this with my teammates."

"This was just step one," Howard added. "We want to keep going and keep going and fight like we know we can. This was the first step of many."

The Bobcats were led by Aspen Bush with 19 points and Jordan Gilbert with 14 points, but the Tigersí defensive attack held the high scoring duo to just eight first half points allowing Marshall County take an insurmountable 43-21 lead into halftime.

The Bobcats scored the first basket of the contest, but that would be the only Giles County lead of the game as Johnson scored on a drive and layup to reclaim the 3-2 lead.

Brown knocked down a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 12-6 and moments later, senior sharpshooter Keevon Maxwell turned a once tight game into an 18-10 Tiger advantage.

Fields continued the onslaught with 58 seconds remaining in the opening frame on a triple and the Tigers went for the jugular when Maxwell stole the Bobcats inbound pass and dished to Fields for another 3-pointer for a 26-10 lead heading into the second period.

KJ Johnson (3), who led the Tigers in the scoring column with 22 points, knocks down one of his three 3-pointers in the game.

The Tigers kept their foot on the gas as the game resumed, taking a 33-12 lead on a Johnson triple and a 22-point advantage on a Quavion Harris offensive rebound and short jumper.

The Bobcats tried to gain ground, but the Tigers had an answer for every Giles County field goal, taking a 41-19 lead on a Brown drive and layup before going into the halftime break holding a huge lead.

The Bobcats finally made a run in the third period, starting with a Bush layup and followed by a Stephen Wade layup, a K.J. Ziegler steal and bucket and finally a Wade pull-up jumper to cut the 22-point halftime to single digits at 46-37 with two minutes left in the third.

The Tigers stopped the bleeding when Maxwell came up with another huge steal and fed Fields who found Brown for a streaking layup to end the period clinging to an 11-point lead after scoring just five points in the quarter.

"Coach told us to keep our heads on straight and that the game wasn't over so don't stop playing," Johnson stated. "We began to play like we did in the first half and we started getting easy baskets."

The Tigers reclaimed their groove at the start of the final period as Fields flew down the court and got the crowd of its feet with a high flying one-handed dunk over a Bobcat defender.

The Fields dunk breathed new life into the Tiger attack and on the next possession Fields drove to the hoop and converted a three-point play after getting fouled on the layup.

Jay Howard puts (1) an exclamation point on the title game win over archrival Giles County with a slam dunk with less than a minute to go in the contest.

The Bobcats hung around and finally trimmed the lead down to seven with 2:34 in the game, but Howard scored two buckets before ending the game with an emphatic jam to give the Tigers their first district title since 2001.

Marshall County hosts the first round of the region tournament on Saturday at 7 p.m. against Creek Wood (13-14).

Marshall County 26 17 5 27-75

Giles County 10 11 16 18-55

Marshall County (75): KJ Johnson 22, Caleb Fields 17, Jay Howard 13, DíAndre Brown 10, Tre Crutcher 4, Keevon Maxwell 3, LaMarcus Dodson 2, Quavion Harris 2, Donathon Tears 2

3-point goals (7): Johnson 3, Fields 2, Maxwell, Brown

Free throws (12-for-19): Johnson 7-for-9, Fields 3-for-3, Brown 1-for-2, Howard 1-for-4, Dodson 0-for-1

Giles County (55): Aspen Bush 19, Jordan Gilbert 14, Stephen Wade 8, Kobe Bledsoe 5, KJ Ziegler 4, Sam Hatfield 3, Payton Hall 2

3-point goals (2): Bush, Hatfield

Free throws (11-for-14): Bush 6-for-7, Gilbert 2-for-2, Wade 2-for-2, Bledsoe 1-for-2, Hall 0-for-1

Halftime score: Marshall County 43, Giles County 21