Boyd-Buchanan's boys' basketball team had to call on its reserves Monday in its TSSAA Class A state sectional. And thanks to their key contributions, the Buccaneers reserved a spot in Murfreesboro.
With a big effort from their bench, combined with defensive stalwart Q.D. Cox turning into a scoring fiend, the senior-heavy Bucs are headed to the state tournament after defeating Clarkrange 51-47 at Boyd-Buchanan.
The tournament will be held March 12-15 at Middle Tennessee State's Murphy Center.
The game was a rematch of last year's sectional won 53-49 by Clarkrange at Chattanooga State. With the same seven seniors handling much of the playing time the last four seasons, this was their last chance to advance to the big stage.
"This is definitely the happiest day in my life," said Cox, one of those seniors and the Bucs' leader in the game with 17 points and five steals. "We worked so hard to get here."
The Buffaloes owned a 45-41 lead with a chance to add on with Logan Beaty going to the free-throw line for a one-and-one with 5:16 to play, but he missed the front end. The Bucs took advantage, scoring the next five points.
"We were down with like five minutes to go, but that didn't shake us," Cox said. "We were thinking, 'We've got to get stops, got to get stops, and that'll lead to our offense.' And that's what we did."
After the teams exchanged baskets in close, Boyd-Buchanan (28-3) was clinging to a one-point lead as the final minute approached. Senior reserve Jeremiah Nason came up with a steal that led to classmate Justus McMillan getting fouled with 47 seconds to play. His free throws made it a three-point lead.
"I was fronting him," Nason said of the player he was guarding. "Our guards were doing a great job pressuring the ball, and I saw they were going to do that lob they'd been doing all game. I just got it this time."
Clarkrange (19-14) inbounded after a timeout with 17.7 seconds remaining, but after a few quick passes Broderick Howard missed from behind the arc on the right side of the floor. Cox was fouled on the reboound, and his free throw with 5.1 seconds to play sealed it.
The bench play was necessary because senior starters Hall Allen and Austin Walker, the leading scorer for the season, both picked up their third fouls before halftime. Senior Colby Arendale ran the point in Allen's absence, and forward Nason played practically starters' minutes.
"Coach is always telling us we're a team," Nason said. "That means every player down to the end of the bench. It could've been anybody that got the opportunity. I just tried to step up."
Nason joined McMillan with nine points after neither scored in the first quarter. Walker finished with eight.
"Jeremiah Nason was huge," Boyd-Buchanan coach Cole Rose said. "I don't know if you can say enough about it. It may not show up statwise what he did."
Foul calls were tight both ways all night. The Bucs reached the bonus with six minutes to play in the first half, and the Buffaloes got there 1:31 later. Clarkrange was the first to reach it in the second half, getting there with 7:31 left in the fourth quarter.
Boyd-Buchanan ended up 10-of-24 from the free-throw line. Clarkrange was 11-for-18.
Howard topped the Buffaloes with 12 of his 14 points coming after halftime. Their big post players, Landon Baldwin and Ronnie Siems, combined for 23 points and 23 rebounds.
The state-tournament berth is the fourth for Boyd-Buchanan's boys but the first since they won a state title in 1996.
"They've worked so hard and won a ton of big games," Rose said of his players. "I'm happy for them more than anything."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.