The second boys' high school basketball game Tuesday at East Ridge was more than just another region semifinal. It was another Howard-Brainerd classic.
"I don't have any black hair left," Howard coach Walter McGary said after his team rallied for a 50-49 overtime victory in a Region 3-AA elimination game between the longtime archrivals.
Howard (19-9) will play Tyner in Thursday's region final at 7 p.m.
The Hustlin' Tigers' Brandon Walters made the basket that sent the game to overtime with 1:20 left in regulation, and he made the first of two free throws with 12.4 seconds left in overtime for the winning margin.
But for that matter, Walters was in the middle of everything all night. He finished with 20 points, and McGary said his biggest contributions were defensively.
"He's 6-foot-8, 280 pounds and 16 years old," McGary said. "He's yet to grow mentally into his body. He doesn't have a drop of facial hair. Next year he might grow to 7 feet. He did a tremendous job for us."
Walters had to come out because of a cut on the head from an elbow at 4:11 of the fourth quarter. He got bandaged and drew McGary's praise for coming back "as a warrior."
The Panthers' last effort to win was an off-balance shot near the goal by Demetrius Kitchens, who had hit a game-winning buzzer-beater in the District 6 tournament. But Walters was there this time and forced a shot alteration.
"We knew they were going to drive for a shot," Walters said. "Coach just told me to stay in the paint and put my hands up. He said, 'Wherever the ball goes, you go.'"
Brainerd (24-10) led most of the game and was up 38-27 in the third quarter. But it was held to a total of 11 points in the third and fourth quarters by Howard's 3-2 zone.
"The third quarter is where I feel like we lost the ballgame," Brainerd coach Robert High said. "We were going down the floor like we had a shot clock.
"They were good defensively, but we helped them. We started taking all these 3s and not attacking the basket."
The Panthers' Jeulian High scored 14 points, including a 12-foot jumper that put them ahead 49-48 with 26 seconds to go in overtime before Howard's Anthony Smith tied it with a free throw with 15.3 seconds left. Walters' winning shot came after he rebounded Smith's miss of the second.
Kitchens ended with 13 points and Jabari Evans added 12.