The Tyner basketball Rams have a lot of talent on the offensive end, but they pride themselves on defense. And in an eight-minute stretch Saturday night in the Times Free Press Best of Preps championship game against Boyd-Buchanan, they showed just how good they could be.
Tyner broke open a tie game with a 21-0 second-half run and was able to pull away from the Buccaneers, claiming its first tournament title since 2010 with a 56-40 victory at Chattanooga State.
Sadik Spence was named the tournament most valuable player. The Tyner senior point guard, who sported a shiner right below his right eye after a first-quarter collision, scored 22 points but said the defense is the team's calling card.
"Coach [Gerald] Harris told us that we were going to have to pull together and stay strong like the family we are," Spence said. "Defense wins game, and we took that to the head and showed them what defense is really about. We've been doing it all year long, and it's been getting easier as the season goes on."
Tyner (10-1) forced 21 turnovers, but in the early going the giveaways didn't seem to bother the Bucs. They were guilty of eight in the first quarter but led 14-13. The Rams started to seize control of the game early in the third quarter, using a 9-0 run to take a 33-26 advantage, but Boyd-Buchanan rallied with a 9-2 spurt to tie the game before Tyner broke the game wide open with its back-breaking surge. The Bucs had seven turnovers in that time span, which ended with the Rams ahead 56-35.
Dequan Hardwick scored 12 points for the winners, while Alex Watkins had 10 rebounds and three blocks. The latter and freshman Kevin Cameron joined Spence on the all-tournament team.
"When we play defense like that, not many teams are going to stop us," Harris said. "We don't require help; we contest shots and we rebound. Boyd-Buchanan is a well-coached team and they know how to win, so they weren't going to give up. They do everything they're supposed to do, but I thought we played smart down the stretch tonight."
The Bucs (12-1), who faced Ooltewah and Tyner in back-to-back nights, were led by Q.D. Cox's 11 points and eight rebounds. Zach Jenkins had four blocks.
"Losses can be real good sometimes," Boyd-Buchanan coach Cole Rose said. "It's not realistic that we were going to go undefeated, and this is a good time to take a loss. We're going to get in the gym and learn from it.
"Tyner's a really good team -- they're the type of team we've got to beat to get to Murfreesboro [for the state tournament]. If we use that to improve, it can be a real positive for us."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.