Baylor weathered both early and late scoring barrages from rival McCallie for an impressive 54-51 Division II-AA East/Middle basketball road win Friday night.
Baylor rallied from an eight-point first-half deficit to build a 10-point second-half lead and hold on down the stretch.
Even after a slow start, the Red Raiders showed no ill effects coming off a disappointing loss at Montgomery Bell Academy just three days earlier. They also set aside a 10-point loss to McCallie in the championship game of the Best of Preps tournament two weeks ago while handing the top-ranked Blue Tornado their first loss of the season.
"Our kids showed a lot of heart tonight," Baylor coach Austin Clark said. "They were playing on fumes but showed a great deal of toughness to come in here and beat a really good team, our biggest rival, on the road."
Junior Beyuan Hendricks accounted for all eight of Baylor's first-quarter points and did not cool off in the opening minutes of the second quarter, connecting on a pair of 3-point baskets to cut McCallie's eight-point lead in half. Hendricks finished with a game-high 22 points, making five of Baylor's 10 3-pointers.
Seniors Tre Jackson and Patrick Urey picked up the scoring slack in the final four minutes of the second quarter, combining for three 3s and sparking an 11-1 run to close out the half and give Baylor a 25-21 lead. By halftime the sixth-ranked Red Raiders (9-4, 3-1) had made seven of 12 3-point attempts, while McCallie (17-1, 3-1) was 0-for-11.
"I thought composure was the biggest difference tonight," Blue Tornado coach John Shulman said. "The simple answer is to say they made shots and we didn't. We didn't look like a senior-laden team, especially in some key moments.
"This rivalry, sometimes it brings out the best in kids and sometimes guys want to win so badly that it brings out the bad. We played a little bit out of character against a team that's got a chance to win a state championship."
Once Baylor grabbed the lead in the first half it never gave it up, extending the advantage to 10 early in the fourth quarter. A 7-1 run in with just over three minutes remaining helped the Blue Tornado close the gap to one, and they held Baylor without a field goal over the final 4:17. But Baylor answered by making eight of 12 free throws in the final two minutes for the win.
"We watched film of the first game against them in the Best of Preps, and it was just a matter of shots not falling for us," Clark said. "We only scored six points in the second and third quarter of that game, but it wasn't because we were taking bad shots — they just weren't falling.
"Tonight, it started out looking like a repeat of that in the first quarter, but our guys kept attacking and those shots starting falling. Everybody brought what they do best and helped us get a huge win."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.