The East Ridge Pioneers have played on occasions like a basketball team that one would not expect to be seeded only sixth in an eight-team tournament. Thursday at Tyner was not one of them.
The third-seeded Rams used a swarming defensive effort in defeating the Pioneers 61-30 in an opening-round game in the District 6-AA high school tournament
Tyner (15-5) will play in Saturday's semifinals at East Hamilton against second-seeded Red Bank at 5 p.m. The Lions advanced by beating seventh seed Hixson 88-50.
Tyner's second-seeded girls also played at home Thursday and move on to a semifinal by defeating seventh-seeded Central 53-36. The Lady Rams (17-6) will play Saturday at East Hamilton at 3:30 against today's winner between Hixson and third-seeded Brainerd.
It didn't seem to matter whether Tyner boys' coach Gerald Harris had his team in a man-to-man defense or a 3-2 zone. Both were effective.
Since Jan. 21, East Ridge (11-16) has victories over District 7-AA champion Notre Dame and 20-win Class AAA Ooltewah along with wins over higher-seeded District 6 teams Brainerd and Tyner. The Rams weren't at full strength Feb. 7, but they were Thursday.
They were ahead by 15 points, having held East Ridge to seven points in each of the first two quarters, when they came out of the locker room in full-court-press mode. The Pioneers' first points of the second half came at the 1:47 mark of the third quarter when a loose ball fell in Eddie Hitchcock's hand and he laid it in. Before that the score was 40-14.
"When you have a team kind of down a little bit, you don't want to give them any room," Harris said. "East Ridge has been playing good as of late. We wanted to change the tempo and press them. They like to take their time bringing the ball up the court. We wanted to get the ball out of some of their ball-handlers' hands, and I thought our off-side defenders did a good job coming up with the ball."
Dee Suttles made the first of his three 3-point goals in the first quarter and scored the rest of his 15 points in the second half. Eight of Travis Jones' 12 points came in the Rams' 17-point first period.
Greg Besley, who had 10 points, was the only Pioneer to score more than five. Six Rams totaled at least five and Sadik Spence, whom Harris praised for his play off Tyner's bench, scored four.
Tyner's girls led 27-21 at halftime, then siezed control in the second half. They outscored the Lady Purple Pounders 14-6 in the third quarter and a 6-0 run to start the fourth made it 47-27.
"I thought we just came out a little flat, but you've got to give credit to Central," Tyner coach Terrie Parks said. "They came out and played very hard and had a good game plan. We started getting in the passing lanes early in the fourth quarter, and those steals got us out and running."
Brittany McKinney topped the Lady Rams with 17 points. Alexxus Sturkey added eight and drew praise from her coach for her work at four positions.
Kesha McGhee had all eight of Central's points in the first quarter and finished with 12. Melva Sheppard contributed 11.