NASHVILLE - Same site, similar last-second scenario, different result.
One year after a heartbreaking state-tournament semifinal loss on a desperation heave, McCallie's basketball team avoided a repeat when Briarcrest Christian's DeMarc Richardson's 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the side of the backboard. That miss secured the Blue Tornado's 51-49 victory Friday in the Division II-AA semifinals at Lipscomb University.
For the first time in program history, McCallie will play for a state championship here today at 6 p.m. EST against top-ranked Ensworth/or Montgomery Bell Academy.
"During the timeout when they were setting up their play, my problem was calming everybody down on our team," McCallie coach Dan Wadley said. "I think I had to say 'shut up' several times. I wanted to make sure they knew what we wanted to do defensively. We were willing to give up a contested outside shot, but I didn't want them to get anything inside or get fouled.
"It was scary how much it felt like our situation at the end of last year's game."
McCallie had trailed since since early in the second quarter, and by as much as 11 before rallying.
"When you're behind by that much, you know you can't get it all back at once," said McCallie's 6-foot-8 sophomore post Terrance O'Donohue, who held Briarcrest's Mr. Basketball finalist Austin Nichols to four points in the second half and 12 overall. "How do you eat an elephant? One little bite at a time. That's what we had to do - score and stop them and score some more."
The Blue Tornado were behind by nine as the fourth quarter began but chipped away at the deficit, and Cordell James' three free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining put them ahead for the first time in the second half. James was fouled on a 3-point attempt and calmly made all three attempts.
"All I thought about before I stepped to the line was how many free throws we shoot during practice," James said. "If we miss a free throw in practice the whole team has to run, so we're kind of used to shooting with pressure. I knew I couldn't let my team down, and after that first one went in a big weight was off and I was a little more calm."
McCALLIE 51, BRIARCREST CHRISTIAN 49
Briarcrest 11 13 16 9 - 49
McCallie 16 4 13 18 - 51
Briarcrest Christian (49) - Austin Nichols 12, Tuohy, Richardson 9, Chris Jones 16, Nelson 3, McGhee, Hill, Hodges 5, Spralls, Sillyman 2, Johnson 2.
McCallie (51) - Meacham 5, Chad Lee 19, Reese 8, Calvin 4, James 7, Williams, Hibbard, O'Donohue 8.
3-point goals: Briarcrest 3 (Richardson, Nelson, Hodges); McCallie 3 (Lee 3). Records: McCallie 19-7; Briarcrest 19-10.
Chad Lee, who scored McCallie's first eight points, got the fourth-quarter rally started with a 3-pointer and a layup off a steal to close the gap to four. O'Donohue got the Blue Tornado within one with a steal and dunk but was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim. Moments later, James was called for a controversial offensive foul on a fastbreak that had McCallie coaches jumping to their feet in unison.
Lee tied the game on a putback with 40 seconds remaining, and after Briarcrest's Chris Jones made just one of two free throws, James' free throws became the winning points. Briarcrest missed four of six free throws in the final 1:39, allowing McCallie to outscore the Saints 7-2 during that span.
As the final buzzer sounded the three officials raced off the court and McCallie junior guard C.J. Reese pulled his shirt off in celebration. That send Briarcrest coach John Harrington into a frenzy as he chased the referees while screaming for a technical to be called for unsportsmanlike conduct on Reese.
"We lost a game this year because one of our kids took his jersey off after the buzzer," Harrington said. "The refs called us for a technical foul in that game and gave Christian Brothers foul shots to win it after the buzzer had sounded. All I'm asking is for somebody to explain the reason the rules are different in a state-tournament game than in the regular season?
"But on the court, McCallie just beat us. They outplayed us down the stretch and took the game from us."