MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - For the third straight state tournament game, the Meigs County boys' basketball team fell behind big early. But unlike the previous two, the Tigers never were able to rally Saturday as talented Memphis Mitchell refused to take its foot off the accelerator.
The game was decided by halftime.
After building a 20-point lead in the first half by making 54 percent of its shots and forcing 11 turnovers, Mitchell coasted to a 56-27 victory for the Class A state championship at Middle Tennessee State University. It was Mitchell's first state title after finishing runner-up twice in AA.
"We tried to make some things happen early and wound up turning the ball over, and they really capitalized on it every time we turned it over," said Tigers coach Sammy Perkinson, who helped the Decatur program go from winning just four games two years ago to reaching the title game for the third time in program history.
"I thought the early emotion played a big part. They got energized with a couple of those turnovers and fed off them for early buckets, and we seemed to get down. We'll take the silver ball home and feel good about our season. I wish we had made a better showing today, but they had a lot to do with that."
Mitchell (30-6) never trailed and used a 12-0 run that began late in the first quarter and carried into the second to take a commanding lead. Meigs went 5:11 without scoring and followed that dry spell with another that lasted four minutes, as Mitchell went on an 8-0 spurt to build an insurmountable lead just before halftime.
Meigs (32-5) made just 6 of 18 first-half shots and was victimized by seven steals that led directly to easy baskets for Mitchell. Meigs wound up with 18 turnovers and shot just 26 percent for the game, including 1-of-9 on 3-point attempts.
"It was huge for us to jump out early," Mitchell coach Faragi Phillips said. "We had a lot of different guys come in and step up big for us, and that's been the story for us all year. I thought we played really well defensively, and that made a big difference early."
Mitchell, which won 10 of its last 11 games by double digits, limited Mr. Basketball finalist Levi Woods to 15 points. Woods picked up two fouls in the first quarter and never found a scoring groove, but hge did grab a game-high 13 rebounds. Zy Moore added seven points, but no other Meigs County player finished with more than three.
Humboldt's Desonta Bradford was named the state's Mr. Basketball award winner after the title game.
"They were a whole lot quicker than anybody we've seen this season," Woods said. "We didn't take care of the ball very well, especially early, and they're good enough that they made us pay.
"But our season ended in the state championship game, so we can't hang our heads about that."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.