Howard 20 15 13 12 -- 60
McMinn Central 18 12 11 18 -- 59
Howard (60) -- McCauley 4, Smith 7, Walton 5, Cudjoe Young 10, Xavier Harris 15, Brummitt, Brandon Walters 19.
McMinn Central (59) -- Ward 7, Josh Scudder 13, Cook, Tim Webb 19, Farrar, Boyd 5, Holley 5, Miller 8, Kepley 2.
3-point goals: Howard 2 (Smith, Walton); McMinn Central 8 (Scudder 3, Webb 2, Miller 2, Holley). Records: Howard 26-5; McMinn Central 28-4.
ATHENS, Tenn. - In a game of inches Thursday, the difference in the Region 3-AA boys' basketball championship was the 81 that Brandon Walters presented.
The Howard center, who measures 6-foot-9, finished with 19 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks as the Hustlin' Tigers edged McMinn Central 60-59 for their third consecutive region title. The Chattanooga team had to sweat out a crazy sequence to end the game.
Howard (26-5) will now DeKalb County in a Class AA sectional matchup Monday night at 7, while the Chargers (28-4) will travel to Region 4 champion Livingston Academy for an 8 p.m. EST tipoff.
Howard held a nine-point lead in the second half, but the Chargers battled back into it.
McMinn Central's Tim Webb, who scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half and 11 in the final quarter, was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 35.4 seconds remaining. He hit all three foul shots, but Howard's Cudjoe Young hit a pair of free throws, then had a dunk with 17 seconds remaining for a three-point lead.
The Chargers answered with Webb hitting a layup and getting fouled. He missed the tying free throw, though, and Walters rebounded and got the ball to Young, who was fouled. He missed two free throws with 8.9 seconds to go. McMinn Central's Max Miller missed an open 3-point attempt, and then Denzel Boyd's tip-in attempt rattled off the rim and was rebounded by Walters.
"When the ball went up, I had to go get it. When I did, I just held the ball high until I heard the buzzer," said Walters, the tournament most valuable player. "It feels great to win. McMinn Central is a tough team to guard because their big men go out and shoot 3s and jumpers, but it's good to know we got this with the same team we had last year."
Howard was 6-for-11 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and had six turnovers in the final frame as well.
"We came together and we believed," Howard coach Walter McGary said. "No matter what mistakes we made, we didn't stop hustling. We could have hung our heads, but we kept playing.
"I'm happy for our seniors -- they deserve this win. They have to deal with a lot of stuff from me all year long, so they deserve the sweetness of a championship."
Howard post Xavier Howard added 15 points, while Young chipped in 10.
Josh Scudder had 13 points for the Chargers.
"There were two good, solid teams out there," McMinn Central coach Doug Armstrong said. "We started getting to the basket and made a couple shots, then closed the lead down and had a real good opportunity to win the game.
"We had a chance because this group thinks they're going to win. That's a big part of it."