published Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Tyner Rams rout Irish, play for Best of Preps title

Notre Dame's AJ Flemister (3) drives against Tyner's Landon Strickland.
Notre Dame's AJ Flemister (3) drives against Tyner's Landon Strickland.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.

Tyner and Notre Dame had different ideas about how they wanted the tempo to go in their boys' semifinal Friday in the Times Free Press Best of Preps basketball tournament.

Notre Dame's Fighting Irish had it their way in the beginning, but not for long. The Rams eventually were able to create an up-and-down pace and ended up cruising to a 72-52 victory at Chattanooga State.

Tyner (9-1) advances to tonight's championship game against Boyd-Buchanan scheduled for 8:30. Notre Dame (3-9) will take on Ooltewah in the game for third place at 5:30.

The Irish led 14-8 after A.J. Flemister connected on a 3-point shot with 3:45 to go in the first quarter. But shortly afterward, things began to speed up.

"We played our game," Notre Dame coach J.P. Nerbun said of his team's good start. "We executed the offense. Even though they pressed us, we beat the press. It's fatigue. We wanted to slow it down.

"They've got a lot more depth than us. We're not in shape yet. We'll get there by the second half of the season."

Notre Dame's Kareem Orr broke up a 9-0 Tyner run when he scored in the lane with 5:48 left in the second quarter, but the Irish did not score again until Tyler Byrd converted a three-point play with 6:08 to go in the third. The Rams scored 21 points in between those baskets.

Tyner coach Gerald Harris credited his team's full-court defense not only for making it difficult for the Irish to score but for helping create the tempo the Rams wanted.

"We trapped at opportune times," Harris said. "I thought we did a really good job of understanding things defensively and going where we were supposed to go. If you play really good defense, your offense isn't that hard."

The Rams' largest lead was 47-24. Harris played nothing but substitutes the final 4:32.

Kevin Cameron teamed with Sadik Spence to score the final 14 points of the first half. Cameron led Tyner with 18 -- all in the first three quarters -- and post player Alex Watkins scored eight of his 14 in the first five minutes.

Orr had an eight-point fourth quarter and paced the Irish with 16. Byrd totaled 10 of his 13 points in the third period.

Contact Kelley Smiddie at or 423-757-6653. Follow him at

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

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