Throughout its unlikely run to reach the Region 3-A boys' basketball championship game, Sale Creek had thrived on controlling the tempo.
But the Panthers' frenzied pace never phased a veteran Boyd-Buchanan team that looked just as comfortable running the floor in claiming a 66-56 win to defend its region title.
With seven seniors in their rotation, the Buccaneers matched Sale Creek's helter-skelter style early on, using a 12-0 run to take command midway through the opening quarter. The lead swelled to 14 with just under four minutes to go before halftime. The win leaves the Bucs just one win from reaching the state tournament.
"Our kids are in good shape and we have some depth, so that always helps in a game like this," Bucs coach Cole Rose said. "We talked a lot before the game about how whoever controlled the tempo would have a good chance of winning. Sale Creek does such a good job at making you play at their pace, but I was proud of the way our kids answered the challenge.
"The kids stayed steady, never got frustrated and just played a really smart game."
Boyd-Buchanan will host the loser of today's game between Clarkrange and Goodpasture in a Monday state sectional. That game could be held at Chattanooga State because of the TSSAA's rule on seating capacity for host schools. That decision will be made later this week.
Sale Creek cut the deficit to seven late in the third and had several chances to get even closer, but turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions. After that, a pair of steals that were turned into layups by the Bucs' Hall Allen and Austin Walker gave the Bucs a 12-point cushion early in the fourth, and they coasted from there despite making just 12 of 28 free throws.
"It was a struggle sometimes," said Bucs guard Q.D. Cox, who finished with 13 points and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. "We knew composure would be a big key because our coaches talked to us about that a lot. So we just tried to stay calm, even when they made runs.
"We definitely think about having unfinished business. We were so close to getting to the (state) tournament last year, so we've got a big chip on our shoulder and want to make sure we take that next step now."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293