published Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Renfrow helps Eagles hold on

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    Jordan Beirne (cq), left, guards Jon Patton (cq)Saturday during the Grace Academy basketball game against Signal Mountain High School at Grace Academy. Staff Photo by Allison Carter.

The No. 10 standing at the free-throw line making 11 of 12 shots in the final 3:52 wasn’t point guard Wes Moore. But it was Wes Moore’s point guard.

Signal Mountain’s Austin Renfrow isn’t old enough to remember when his high school basketball coach wore No. 10 for Chattanooga Christian. Yet much like the way his mentor helped hold off some opponents with late clutch shooting from the line, Renfrow’s work helped the Eagles hold off host Grace Academy 76-68 on Saturday in a Region 3-A quarterfinal.

Signal Mountain (18-10) will play either Tennessee Temple or Lookout Valley in a semifinal at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday when the tournament moves to Signal Mountain.

Renfrow made his last eight from the line and fittingly was the one who dribbled out the clock. Moore, a standout at CCS in the early 1990s who afterward played for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said he has a close relationship with his current starting point guard.

“He’s a kid that doesn’t play football, so he’s been there for three years solid every day,” Moore said. “I’m really, really proud of him. He’s taken on the roll of coach on the floor and did a superb job tonight.”

Renfrow was called for three fouls in the first half and had four fouls during the stretch run.

“We had in our notes that he was their best free-throw shooter,” Grace coach Jon Mattheiss said. “You don’t want to foul him, but he continually keeps getting the ball in his hands. Every time we got near him he was going to the free-throw line.”

Renfrow’s one basket was a 3-pointer in the middle of the Eagles’ 7-0 start.

“I think that was big, just because we lost to them in this exact game last year,” Moore said of his team’s quick start. “I told the kids if we could get up on them early, maybe we could get some confidence going. We felt like we had some matchups that could cause Grace some problems.”

The Golden Eagles clearly had difficulties with Signal Mountain’s inside-outside combination of Jon Patton and Hogan Whitmire. Whitmire made six shots from behind the arc and led the Eagles with 25 points.

Patton worked the post area for 10 field goals and totaled 24 points before fouling out with 4:36 to play. The last three fouls were called in less than a 30-second span.

Turning to a man-to-man defense from end to end, Grace (16-10) battled back from a 37-22 halftime deficit and twice got within two points inside the four-minute mark of the third quarter. But with Moore’s most experienced group on the floor, the Eagles closed the third scoring the last nine points.

“The game was lost in the first half ... the first quarter,” Mattheiss said. “We started real sluggish. I’m not sure why. Looking back you ask ‘Should we have gone helter-skelter, full-court man the whole game?’”

Mattheiss also pointed to his team’s 15-for-29 free-throw shooting as a key in the loss. The Eagles made 20 of 28.

Grace’s Corey Nelson led all scorers with 27 points, including five 3-point goals. Jordan Beirne added 14 and Nathan Rector contributed 13.

Contact Kelley Smiddie at ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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