HOWARD 73, SEQUATCHIE COUNTY 63
Sequatchie 16 17 13 17 -- 63
Howard 16 22 17 18 -- 73
Sequatchie County (63) -- Tucker 4, Daniel Cartwright 31, Smith 2, Hudson 8, Kegan Frederick 15, Holland 3, Chandler.
Howard (73) -- Anthony Smith 14, Antonio Smith 11, Wayne Caudle 11, Martin 8, Brandon Walters 18, McCauley 3, Knight 3, Brummitt 4, Young 1, Jackson.
3-point goals: Sequatchie 3 (Cartwright 3); Howard 5 (Anto. Smith 3, Anth. Smith 2). Records: Howard 21-9; Sequatchie County 29-4.
As the 2011-12 high school basketball season rolled along, Howard boys' coach Walter McGary labored trying to figure out what would make his players play as effectively as possible. He determined that challenges were what they seemed to respond to, so he gave them this one: "Let's go to the state tournament."
They can start packing their bags.
The Hustlin' Tigers defeated Sequatchie County 73-63 in a Class AA state sectional Monday at Howard and earned their way to Murfreesboro and Middle Tennessee State University to compete in the state tournament for a third consecutive year.
McGary said when he looked at his collection of players during preseason practice, he wasn't sure he had a state-tournament team on his hands.
"I thought with some hard work and some kids making some sacrifices we could have a pretty decent ballclub," McGary said. "I always have high goals and high expectations for all of my teams. This team has exceeded them."
Howard (21-9) is a longtime power with state-runner-up finishes in 1972 and '80. The state tournament begins March 14 and the Tigers will know when their quest for that elusive title begins after the tournament draw Sunday.
Sequatchie County had two leads Monday -- 2-0 and 19-18. Yet the Indians stayed within three possessions at least until Wayne Caudle's jump shot from the left elbow with 50 seconds to go in the third quarter made it 55-45.
Indians coach Jason Smith said his team's game plan coming in was to pack a zone around Howard 6-foot-8 post player Brandon Walters, who got many of his 18 points off offensive rebounds. But Caudle caused problems and finished with 11 points and guards Anthony and Antonio Smith combined for 25, including five 3-point goals.
"We wanted to try to take away the big man in the middle," Smith said. "They made a few outside shots on us; then we had to adjust some things. What hurt was when they started using the high post and made some shots on us. Then we had to extend things out a little bit."
Caudle is a 6-5 freshman who was hampered by a hamstring injury part of the year. McGary said
"We've been running a high-low offense the last 10 ballgames," McGary said. "No. 14, Wayne Caudle, gives us a dimension we didn't have, and that's being able to stick that jumper from the free-throw line. Plus he's tall enough to look over the defense and find cutters. It's really opened up our offense."
Once the Tigers went up by double digits, Sequatchie (29-4) never got closer than eight points. The last time came with seven seconds left when point guard Daniel Cartwright capped his 31-point night with his third 3-pointer.
"They're a good team," McGary said. "I can see how they won 29 ballgames. They've got height, they've got quickness and they're disciplined."
Kegan Frederick chipped in 15 points for the Indians.
"It's been a wild ride," Smith said. "All the guys bought into it. We had a group of guys who knew their roles. We had some key guys step up and play steady. When it came to games, we showed up and competed."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653.