The hope thus far this season for Howard coach Walter McGary was that his Hustlin' Tigers would eventually be able to become the basketball team that he envisions they can be. Friday night became a huge step in that process.
Brandon Walters finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds, and the visiting Tigers outscored fourth-ranked Tyner 13-5 over the final four minutes on their way to a 47-46 victory. That puts Howard back in the thick of the District 6-AA race with a 5-3 mark. The loss was the first in the district for Tyner.
McGary was pleased with everybody's effort. RodDarius Martin hit the game's go-ahead layup with 40 seconds remaining. Walters had a big block of a Trey Suttles shot attempt in the game's final seconds, and Howard was able to sweat out a Sadik Spence 3-pointer that rimmed out at the buzzer.
"We've talked all season about laying it all on the line and having each other's back," McGary said. "I thought tonight's game was going to get away from us, but a couple of my captains stepped up and made some big plays for us.
"I hope that we've grown up some during the season. This is around the time that we took off last season, and I hope this can springboard us to bigger things down the road."
Both teams came out shooting cold, as the Rams (13-2, 6-1) held a pedestrian 7-4 lead after a quarter. Spence hit a 3 early in the second period to make it a six-point lead, but Howard responded with 11 unanswered points by dominating the boards. The Tigers outrebounded Tyner 11-6 in the quarter, led by Walters' six.
His layup gave Howard a five-point edge, its largest of the half. The visitors led 17-14 going into the break and stretched the lead to eight on laups by Martin and Anthony Smith. Tyner then trimmed the lead to two by the end of the quarter by applying pressure, then took a one-point edge on a 3-pointer by Spence to start the fourth. The Rams reeled off eight straight points in taking a seven-point lead with Walters out of the game in foul trouble, but upon his return Howard was able to shut down the inside and create turnovers leading to baskets late.
With the game tied at 43, Spence hit a pair of free throws with 1:05 remaining. The Rams then fouled Walters on back-to-back possessions, with the 6-foot-8 junior connecting on only one of his four free throws. On each occasion, however, Tyner grabbed the rebound only to see Howard get a steal, first by Lavantez Knight and the second by Smith. The scramble on the latter possession led to Martin's go-ahead layup.
"Their whole team outplayed us tonight," Tyner coach Gerald Harris said. "They were tougher than us at the end of the game, especially on the rebounds on free-throw situations. They did the character things you want your guys to do at the end of the game, getting loose balls that we'd normally get.
"They came in our house tonight and beat our tail -- that's not a team that looks like the record that they have."
Spence led Tyner with 16 points.