Chattanooga Christian surges past King's Academy and into D-II East region semis

Chattanooga Christian surges past King's Academy and into D-II East region semis

February 14th, 2018 by Lindsey Young in Sports - Preps

CCS's Jack Stimart shoots around King's Academy's Brandon Burgess during their Division II regional basketball tournament game against King's Academy at Chattanooga Christian School on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Gallery: CCS surges past King's Academy and into D-II East region semis

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It took a half for the Chattanooga Christian boys' basketball team to come back to earth, but once it did the visitors from Seymour had little chance in the Division II-A East Region quarterfinal Tuesday.

The Chargers (23-5), still soaring after their district tournament championship win over Notre Dame, overcame a sluggish start and foul trouble to get past The King's Academy, 51-42, at CCS. The win completed a hoops sweep as the Lady Chargers also advanced into this weekend's semifinal round with a 54-51 win over Knoxville's Grace Christian.

Both CCS teams also qualified for the state tournament with the wins.

The boys trailed by as many as six points in the second quarter as the King's backcourt duo of Nemanja Koveccovic and Nikola Pesic combined for 11 early points and the Chargers found big men Mondo Ellison and Michale Houge in a bit of foul trouble.

They trailed by one entering the second half, but an Ellison dunk to start the third quarter ignited a 15-4 run that was fueled by a suddenly aggressive trapping defense. Guard John Rhodes, who led CCS with 13 points, got three of his game-high five steals during the run that ended with the Chargers up 38-28 just four minutes into the period.

"Defense turned it around," CCS coach Eddie Salter said. "We turned on the press and got some good steals and quick buckets, and that energized us. At the half we told them to be a little more patient and let the game come to you, so once we settled down we were OK.

"That team is better than their record. No. 4 (Pesic) is hard to guard, and we didn't know if he was going to shoot or penetrate."

The CCS lead was nine entering the final quarter and quickly grew to 13 on back-to-back Rhodes layups, the second one off a steal at midcourt. The Lions cut it to seven on Koveccovic's 3-pointer, but the Chargers were able to keep a comfortable lead the rest of the way.

"We knew our game comes from defense, so we had to pick up the tempo," Rhodes said of the game's turning point. "Once we got going defensively, it created our offense. It was frustrating they were knocking down shots, but once we got a few turnovers we righted the ship and got rolling."

The Lady Chargers (21-7) advanced after a big night from Madison Blevins, who had a game-high 25 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:50 to play. Grace Christian had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but CCS's Mary Vandergriff blocked Cassie Peters' 3-point shot.

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6296; follow on Twitter @youngsports.