Tigers fall in epic D12-AA overtime title tilt

Friday, February 22, 2019
The 2018-2019 District 12-AA All-Season Team from left are, Wes Lambert (Nolensville-Coach of the Year), KJ Johnson (Marshall County-MVP), Zach Campbell (Nolensville), Reese Gilbert (Nolensville), Nate Bloedorn (Nolensville), Canelius Turner (Marshall County), Ty Hengesbach (Forrest), Corde Lane (Community), and Kobe Pride (Community). Not Pictured: Will Carver (Central Magnet), Steph Laird (Central Magnet), and KJ Zeigler (Giles County).
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Marshall County Tigers and Nolensville Knights navigated a collision course to the District 12-AA title game, inevitably meeting to decide the championship at Forrest Tuesday night.

The Tigers took the initial D12-AA title last season and won the final one they played in the old 12-AA over Giles County before re-districting prior to the 2017-2018 season.

In front of a packed house in Chapel Hill, the stars came out as 2017-2018 Class 2A Mr. Basketball and finalist for the award this season KJ Johnson put on a show with 48 points, but the Nolensville duo of Nate Bloedorn (24) and Zack Campbell (19) combined for 43 points and Jayden Watkins had 11 as the Knights won a 71-66 overtime thriller.

Marshall County’s KJ Johnson (3) drives to the hoop for two of his 48 points versus Nolensville Tuesday night at Chapel Hill in the District 12-AA title game.

“The kids played hard and they stayed after it, I told them in the locker room I hope we have a chance to meet them again, so we will see next week,” MCHS coach Lavon King said. “Those two (Johnson and Bloedorn) are very special players and they carry their team.”

“Like I said, I’m glad we got the opportunity to actually play them again and hopefully we will play a fourth time if everything works out.”

Things didn’t start well for the Tigers when the Knights struck the first blow that was delivered by Bloedorn in the low post as the eventual tournament MVP scored 10 points in the first quarter and Jayden Watkins kept the Marshall County defense loose with eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

The Knights’ early onslaught resulted in doubling up the Tigers for a 22-11 lead after the first period.

Johnson, who was awarded the District 12-AA regular season MVP after the game for the second straight season, turned it on midway thru the second quarter with the Knights leading 27-16.

Johnson bookended a pair of pretty drives to the hoop through traffic with a long 3-pointer for a 7-2 MCHS run to make it a seven-point game with three minutes to go in the first half and a couple of possessions later, Johnson dished to Devonte Davis on a fast break bucket during which Davis was fouled on the play.

Davis canned the free throw to cut the Nolensville lead to 29-25 before the Knights responded with a 6-2 mini-run to end the first half up by eight points at 35-27.

Johnson took the spotlight in the third quarter, pouring in 17 points in the period with two 3-pointers, and four successful drives to the goal that resulted in five free throws.

Davis, who was the only other Tiger player in double figures with 14 points, was twice the recipient of pretty Johnson dishes for layups as Marshall County came all the way back to lead 48-46 late in stanza.

The 2018-2019 District 12-AA All-Academic Team from left are, Brandon Wharton (Nolensville), Hudson Stromen (Nolensville), Nate Bloedorn (Nolensville), Reese Gilbert (Nolensville), MarKay Morris (Marshall County), Malik Thomison (Marshall County), Keshun Gentry (Marshall County), KJ Johnson (Marshall County), Mitchell Everett (Forrest), Ty Hengesbach (Forrest), Martin Stewart (Forrest), Sam Ford (Forrest), Grayson Garette (Community), and Zach Lohn (Community). Not Pictured: Caleb Canard (MCM), Patrick Norman (MCM), Will Carver (MCM), Jamerson Spivey (MCM), Steph Laird (MCM), and Stone Ralston (Community).

Campbell, who was awarded all-district regular season and all-tournament honors after the game, scored on a drive and subsequent three-point play to end the third quarter with the Knights clinging to a 49-48 lead.

Johnson put the Tigers on his back in the fourth quarter as he scored all 12 of the team’s points in the period and he seemed to be everywhere as the lead exchanged hands four times.

With the game tied at 58-58, Marshall County called timeout with the ball to set up a play, but they did not score out of the stoppage and Campbell scored on a drive to the hoop to put Nolensville in front 60-58 with 1:12 left in the fourth quarter, forcing another MCHS timeout.

The 2018-2019 District 12-AA All-Tournament Team from left are, Nate Bloedorn (Nolensville-MVP), Zach Campbell (Nolensville), Jayden Watkins (Nolensville), Canelius Turner (Marshall County), KJ Johnson (Marshall County), and Alex Mitchell (Community).

The Tigers did score again, but got the ball back on Knights’ turnover and Johnson was fouled with 51.5 seconds left.

Johnson buried both free throws to tie the game and Nolensville held the ball until there was just 5.4 seconds left when they called timeout to set up the potential game winning score.

They coughed up the ball on the inbounds pass and the Tigers called timeout with 2.4 seconds left.

Johnson got the ball out of the stoppage and with little room to maneuver, he got off a long heave that didn’t miss by much and the game went to overtime.

“As far as with two seconds left to go as far as trying to get something I take the responsibility for that.” King said. “At least to get a shot close enough to have chance of it going in.”

The Tigers struck first in the overtime period as Johnson found Davis for a layup.

Bloedorn hit one free throw and after an MCHS missed shot, he scored again on a rebound and put-back to give the Knights a 63-62 lead.

Johnson went to the free throw line again and made two more charity shots to seesaw the lead back to the Tigers.

The action was tense and furious when Bloedorn got fouled and he made both shots to give Nolensville a 65-64 lead with 1:35 left in the extra stanza.

Not to be outdone, Johnson flew in for two more points, but Campbell went downtown at the other end to make it a two-point game and a missed shot by the Tigers gave Nolensville the ball with 32 seconds left and they called timeout.

Bloedorn was fouled again and he made one-of-two to make it 69-66 with 31.2 seconds left and at the other end, Johnson threw up a 3-pointer from the corner that bounced off the far side of the rim and somehow, Johnson was there for the carom and he launched another one that just missed and Campbell grabbed the ball and was fouled.

“I had two open looks, I missed them, I didn’t knock them down,” Johnson said. “I know next time I will be ready for those shots and knock them down.”

Campbell buried both foul shots to seal the district title for the Knights (18-10), who host Creekwood (6-21) in Saturday night’s Region 5-AA Tournament opening round satellite game.

“I’m just proud of us that we came back and we started fighting,” Johnson said. “We were down in the first half, we came out did what we were supposed to, we just didn’t finish, but we fought back.”

The Tigers (15-13) entertain Lewis County (18-12) at the Dottie Kelso Memorial Gymnasium in Lewisburg on Saturday with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

“Being home will be a great time for us to get our confidence back up,” Johnson said. “We will just take it one game at a time and hopefully, make it to the region championship.”

The Tigers beat Lewis County 73-50 last year at home in the first round.

“I already have a little bit of film on them (Lewis County) already and we will prepare a game plan and get ready to go on Saturday,” King said. “They’ll bounce back, they’re competitors and I know they will get after it.”

Fairview (28-2) beat Camden 74-56 to claim the District 11-AA title Tuesday and they host Murfreesboro Central Magnet (18-11) while Camden (22-6) entertains Community (18-12).

The remainder of the region tournament is at East Hickman.

Marshall County 11 16 21 12 6-66

Nolensville 22 13 14 11 11-71

Marshall County (66): KJ Johnson 48, Devonte Davis 14, Silas Hurt 2, Malik Thomison 2.

3-Point Goals (7): Johnson 5, Davis 2.

Free Throws (13-for-20): Johnson 11-for-18, Davis 2-for-2.

Nolensville (71): Nate Bloedorn 24, Zach Campbell 19, Jayden Watkins 11, Reese Gilbert 6, Nathan Foutch 6, Hudson Stromen 5.

3-Point Goals (7): Campbell 3, Watkins 3, Stromen.

Free Throws (14-for-24): Bloedorn 6-for-11, Campbell 6-for-10, Foutch 2-for-2, Gilbert 0-for-1.

Halftime Score: Nolensville 35, Marshall County 27.

Academic All-District 12-AA Team

KJ Johnson (Marshall County)

Keshun Gentry (Marshall County)

Malik Thomison (Marshall County)

MarKay Morris (Marshall County)

Ty Hengesbach (Forrest)

Martin Stewart (Forrest)

Sam Ford (Forrest)

Mitchell Everett (Forrest)

Nate Bloedorn (Nolensville)

Reese Gilbert (Nolensville)

Hudson Stromen (Nolensville)

Brandon Wharton (Nolensville)

Grayson Garette (Community)

Stone Ralston (Community)

Zach Lohn (Community)

Caleb Canard (MCM)

Patrick Norman (MCM)

Will Carver (MCM)

Jamerson Spivey (MCM)

Steph Laird (MCM)

Regular Season All-District 12-AA Team

KJ Johnson (Marshall County-MVP)

Canelius Turner (Marshall County)

Nate Bloedorn (Nolensville)

Zach Campbell (Nolensville)

Reese Gilbert (Nolensville)

Ty Hengesbach (Forrest)

Will Carver (Central Magnet)

Steph Laird (Central Magnet)

KJ Zeigler (Giles County)

Kobe Pride (Community)

Corde Lane (Community)

Wes Lambert (Nolensville-Coach of the Year)

All-District 12-AA Tournament Team

KJ Johnson (Marshall County)

Canelius Turner (Marshall County)

Nate Bloedorn (Nolensville-MVP)

Zach Campbell (Nolensville)

Jayden Watkins (Nolensville)

Steph Laird (Central Magnet)

Alex Mitchell (Community)