The gauntlet is finally over for the McCallie basketball team. As with any obstacle course, the tasks seem to get tougher the closer one gets to the final, yet reaching the finish line is gratifying.
For the Blue Tornado, claiming their first Times Free Press Best of Preps Tournament championship is extremely rewarding, particularly after winning five games in five days. They beat Tyner 48-39 in front of a packed house Friday night at Arts & Sciences.
Tournament most valuable player Terrance O'Donohue finished with a team-high 14 points, adding eight rebounds and five blocked shots, and the Tornado (11-0) outscored the Rams 16-4 in the decisive second quarter.
Trey Suttles led Tyner (10-1) with 14 points and 11 rebounds -- six offensive.
McCallie's Cordell James had 10 points, and he and John Estes each claimed five rebounds, while teammate C.J. Reese had six assists with seven points.
"Tyner is a great team that can score, especially with Suttles and No. 22 [Antonique Bonds]," O'Donohue said. "We just stick to our game plan on defense.
"For us to be able to get this win is a great feeling, but we're still going to remain humble."
McCallie coach Dan Wadley noted that the team's conditioning played a big part in the victory. The Tornado played in the St. Francis Shootout in Alpharetta, Ga., on Monday and Tuesday before participating in the Best of Preps tournament the next three days.
"Since we agreed to play in the tournament, I made sure the guys knew that we were playing five games in five days, and our preseason conditioning was pretty grueling," Wadley said.
The Rams came into the BOP final with a reputation for tough, hard-nosed defense, but the Tornado matched them in that aspect, getting into passing lanes, forcing steals and converting after falling behind 9-2 in the game's early moments. McCallie's Jorden Williams provided an offensive spark, scoring 10 of his team's first 12 points.
The Tornado's first lead came after a steal and coast-to-coast layup by O'Donohue at the 2:59 mark, and by halftime McCallie's margin had swelled to 23-15.
"I think we're a pretty good defensive team, too," Wadley said. "I think we displayed that in the second quarter. All of our guys have improved defensively since last year."
The lead grew to 35-23 on an O'Donohue three-point play in the final minute of the third quarter.
Tyner trimmed the deficit to eight going into the fourth quarter and cut it to six on a putback by Mohandez Colvin, but the Tornado spread the ball out among guards Jamaal Calvin, Reese and James and ate up the clock, forcing fouls and converting at the line in the final minutes.
Tyner coach Gerald Harris was not pleased with his team's offensive execution.
"We've done a good job of working the ball inside, but we were firing shots from outside. Why are we shooting 3s?" Harris said. "We're strong inside.
"Give McCallie credit, though. They played a great game and wanted this."