It wasn't as easy as the last time for Tyner, but it didn't have to be. All the Rams needed to do was defeat Brainerd on Saturday to win the District 6-AA boys' high school basketball regular-season title, and they did so, 74-63 at Brainerd.
The Rams beat the Panthers by 22 points back in December, which meant Brainerd (18-6, 10-12) would've needed to win by more than that Saturday, or get some help from Central, which hosts Tyner on Tuesday, to win the district regular season. For a long time the Panthers stayed with the Rams, but guard play at the end enabled Tyner (18-3, 11-0) to score the game's final seven points.
"That's been our goal all along," Rams coach Gerald Harris said of winning the regular-season championship. "We've still got a tough game left at Central. The district tournament then starts the season all over again.
"I thought we made made some really good decisions down at the end. We hit some tough shots, too."
Harris said he was particularly proud of his guys dealing with the environment. It was senior night for Brainerd and also honored the 30-year anniversary of the Panthers and Lady Panthers winnning Class AAA state titles in the same season.
"I thought my guys came in focused," said Harris, a former Tyner player. "I know how good those teams were. I played in '85. I remember all that stuff. That was quite a distraction."
Brainerd's only lead in the first half was 8-7 after Isaiah Shropshire's 3-point goal from the left wing with 3:55 to go in the first quarter. The Rams went ahead 18 seconds later on a 3 from the opposite wing by Daaron Mastin and led by as much as 30-21 before the Panthers closed within three at halftime.
Shropshire made another 3-point shot from out front for the first points of the second half, and from there neither team led by more than three until late in the third quarter when Brainerd went up 52-48. The Rams took the lead for good on Sadik Spence's 3-point basket from the right wing to start the fourth-quarter scoring.
They took their first double-digit lead at 67-57 when DeVante Jones drove the lane for a layup, but the Panthers had one last gasp starting with 3:13 to play. They got two free throws from Orlando Moore, two technical free throws from Marques Tipton and a basket from Moore, all within nine seconds.
Moore was also fouled but missed the free throw, yet teammate Demarcus Otis rebounded it. However, the Panthers did not score in the remaining time.
Spence led Tyner with 18 points, Kevin Cameron added 17 and Jones scored 15 off the bench.
Tipton's 18 points topped Brainerd. Moore contributed 13 and Tyree Stubbs chipped in with 12.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
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.