With the outcome in doubt late in the Tennessee-Georgia boys' high school all-star basketball game at Notre Dame, the ball seemed to keep finding its way into Jarod Rhodes' hands. And he delivered.
Rhodes, who played at Cleveland and is headed to Lee University, scored the game's final five points and that lifted the Tennessee team past Georgia 101-98 on Tuesday.
Tennessee had cut a four-point deficit in half when McCallie standout C.J. Reese, a Southeast Missouri signee who was selected the Tennessee player of the game, made two free throws with 36.6 seconds to play. Then Rhodes went to work.
He first converted a basket off a turnover on the inbound pass to tie it at 98. He had a chance to make it a three-point play but missed the free throw. Yet he managed to make a steal and get fouled again going up with a shot.
This time Rhodes made the first free throw and missed the second, but teammate Hunter Chastain, a Bradley Central graduate headed to play at Bryan College, grabbed the rebound. The ball again made its way around to Rhodes, whose basket inside with less than 20 seconds remaining ended up providing the final margin.
"In high school I used to help get all the rebounds and score points," Rhodes said. "It ended up a close game and I had to come prepared and play hard."
It ended up a close game, but both teams were streaky throughout. For instance, Georgia began the game taking a 16-6 lead, then Tennessee caught up and went ahead 27-26 on a three-point play by Grace Academy's Corey Nelson, who has signed with Lee.
"A game like this is almost like an NBA game," Ringgold and Georgia head coach Greg Elkins said. "There's a lot of good athletes out there, so it's going to be a game of runs. The team that made the last run was going to win it."
The Tennessee team led by as much as 45-30 with a little more than three minutes to go in the first half, only to see Georgia cut it to five late in the half. Again Tennessee went up by 15 after scoring the first eight points of the second half, before Georgia rallied to tie at 65, take the lead at 68-67 and build the advantage as high as 89-79.
"You're not doing a whole lot of coaching in a game like this," Ooltewah and Tennessee head coach Jesse Nayadley said. "They're all all-stars and the can all score. When we did a good job of staying in front of the ball we were able to get ahead by 10 or 12 and we got it up to 15. As soon as we'd do that, we'd shut down and get lazy and they'd make a run on us."
The game involved numerous five-for-five substitutions, but from the 29-second mark down to one second, which is when Armuchee graduate and Georgia Northwestern signee missed a 55-footer, both coaches started using timeouts for the first time.
"We told them before the game if it was close at the end we were going to go with the best five based on how they played tonight," Nayadley said. "We were going to try to win."
Rhodes, chosen the game's most valuable player, ended up as the leading scorer with 22 points. McMinn County's Cedrick Nevins had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Chastain scored 16, including four 3s. Ooltewah's Jervon Johnson, headed to Lee, had 11 points along with Nelson and Reese totaled 10 points and five assists.
Georgia player of the game Dalton's Tristan Harrell, an Auburn-Montgomery signee, had 19 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Model's Shaq Calhoun, headed to Tennessee Tech, scored 17. Armuchee's Matt Catanzano, a Georgia Highlands signee, had 15 points and prep teammate and Georgia Northwestern signee Marcell Hudson totaled 10 points and 10 rebounds and North Murray's Tyler Duckett, headed to North Georgia College, also scored 10.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.