Fans couldn't have asked for a much better high school basketball game Friday night inside Baylor's old-school Duke Arena, which was flooded with a sea of home red and McCallie blue as the Chattanooga rivals met again.
JC Shulman buried McCallie's 12th 3-pointer to provide a 46-all tie with seven minutes left to play. With an eight-point halftime lead gone, the Red Raiders answered right back. Cameron Sparks and Jack Shutters had putback baskets, followed by a steal and a tough finish at the rim by senior Evan Haynie to build a 52-46 lead with 5:32 left to play.
Sparks made two more big plays in the final two minutes to close out Baylor's 54-52 victory in a Division II-AA East Region matchup. The physical sophomore dunked off an in-bounds play at the baseline and denied the Blue Tornado's attempt at a tying alley-oop on an in-bounds play with .4 second left on the game clock, and the Red Raiders (11-5, 1-1) held on.
"Clemson head basketball coach Brad Brownell is a good friend of mine, and they are having a really good season," Baylor coach Mark Price said. "He told me that every good team has a superpower. I really feel like the superpower of our team is the unity.
"All of our guys have accepted their roles, execute them and are happy for each other when they execute those roles with success for our team. That is irreplaceable. You can have unity and be a decent team, but you can't have a great team and not have unity. These guys love playing together."
Baylor beat McCallie three weeks to the day the same teams met in the Best of Preps tournament title game at Chattanooga State, where the Red Raiders won 45-35.
McCallie at Baylor basketball on Jan. 20, 2023
Despite his minutes being limited Friday because of McCallie's style of offense, 6-foot-8 Baylor junior Jack Shutters dominated down low. The forward could not be accounted for on the glass, where he had a team-high 12 rebounds (six offensive) as well as 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting. His putback basket near the end of the game was set up by Zane Restelli's steal.
McCallie (7-10, 0-2) got big baskets down the stretch from junior Parker Robison, who separated himself from Baylor defenders on the far end of the baseline on the right side to knock down a wide-open jumper and cut the deficit to 52-50 with 2:30 left. That came in a run of six straight points for Robison, who finished with 16.
Blue Tornado senior Kollin Claridy scored a game-high 17 and made his fifth 3-pointer on the first possession of the fourth quarter to trim Baylor's advantage to 44-43.
"That was a great high school basketball game," McCallie coach Steve Robison said. "I am proud of our guys. We were down eight at halftime and were letting Nyziah Whaley and Restelli kill us. I wasn't really nice at halftime, but they responded. We didn't allow those two to score again and gave ourselves a chance to win at the buzzer."
Whaley was electric in the second quarter, when the Red Raiders guard led a 6-0 run himself to help turn a 16-15 deficit into a 32-24 halftime lead. He and Restelli each scored 10 points in the first half, along with McCallie's Will Kwasigroch.
Baylor senior Joao Rego made a trio of 3-pointers, including back-to-back shots in the third quarter.
"The last two games here, we won in overtime against Hamilton Heights and now we get a hard-fought win in a packed gym tonight," Price said. "This is just so good for our school culture to get everybody into Duke Arena.
"The trajectory of everything at Baylor right now is so good. Academically, athletically and socially. The Lord has blessed me to be a small part of it."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com.