published Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Brainerd Panthers, Tyner Rams set for Region 3-AA boys' basketball final

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    Tyner's Rodney Watson (3) goes for a shot between East Ridge's Eddie Hitchcock (22) and Jo Jo Tillery (5) during the Region 3-AA semifinal at East Ridge High School on Tuesday.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
    enlarge photo

The adversity came late for Brainerd in the Region 3-AA boys' basketball semifinals Tuesday night. It came much earlier for Tyner.

In both cases, they responded.

Both overcame individual hot-shooting performances -- from McMinn Central's Josh Scudder and East Ridge's Eddie Hitchcock, respectively -- in setting up their fourth meeting of the season. Brainerd's Panthers defeated the Chargers 78-71, and Tyner defeated host East Ridge 61-45.

The championship game is at 7 p.m. Thursday at East Ridge. Both finalists are guaranteed spots in the sectional round, with Thursday's winner hosting a game Monday and the loser traveling.

Brainerd (22-6) led 62-43 headed into the fourth quarter, but that's when Scudder got hot, pouring in 20 of his game-high 41 points, including the first nine of the quarter. The Chargers trimmed the lead to 69-68 on two Scudder free throws with 1:56 remaining and had a chance to take the lead but missed two layup attempts.

The Panthers hit seven of eight free throws down the stretch and had a big putback by LaDarius Lee in the final minute to finally pull away for the win.

Marques Tipton led Brainerd with 22 points, while Wendell Graham scored 20 and Orlando Moore added 16 despite battling foul trouble.

"I'm extremely proud of our kids," Brainerd coach Levar Brown said. "We played Brainerd basketball and showed a lot of heart and character tonight."

Skyler Farrar had 13 points for McMinn Central (25-5).

Tyner had a tough time overtaking the hosts. The Rams used a 12-1 second-quarter run in building a four-point lead, but Kolbe King's buzzer-beating 3-pointer cut the halftime margin to 30-29. The Pioneers (17-12) took a 40-35 edge after a Jesse Jones 3-pointer with 1:09 remaining in the third quarter, but Tyner's DeVante Jones scored six straight points before firing an assist to Dequan Hardwick for a layup at the buzzer to give the Rams a 43-40 lead headed into the fourth.

The Rams (23-3) started the fourth quarter with an 11-3 surge and limited East Ridge to five points in the quarter -- two in the final 6:17.

"Our guys came out pressing tonight and came out tight," Tyner coach Gerald Harris said. "We were passive offensively, and we didn't get to the shooters on defense. In the second half, we had more intensity and kept pressing. By the fourth quarter East Ridge didn't have any legs, and we were able to make some baskets in transition.

"Give [East Ridge coach] Jon [Goddard] credit: He did a great job preparing his guys."

Sadik Spence led the Rams with 15 points, while Hardwick had 13 and Daaron Maston added 11.

Hitchcock led the Pioneers with 20 points, hitting five 3-pointers.

Contact Gene Henley at or 423-757-6311. Follow him at

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