Tyner brings Bees to their knees, sprint into state tournament

Tyner brings Bees to their knees, sprint into state tournament

March 6th, 2018 by Stephen Hargis in Sports - Preps

Tyner's Jeremy Elsotn (1) gains control from Upperman's Isaiah Allen (24) and Jaydon Kanipe in a scrapping first half battle at Tyner Monday in the Class AA sub-state game.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

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Not quite two minutes into the second quarter, during a momentary substitution break, four of the five Upperman players on the basketball court were bent over, grabbing the bottom of their shorts, and hoping for a second wind. They were gassed after barely more than a quarter of trying to keep up with Tyner's frantic pace.

First-year Rams coach E'Jay Ward nodded to his players as if to let them know they already had pushed their opponents to the breaking point in Monday night's Class AA sectional. Tyner responded by continuing to press the visiting Bees into submission, building a 30-point lead on its way to a 68-42 win.

"We felt like we could wear on them if we could get the tempo going the way we like it," Ward said later. "They had a couple of freshmen starting and we thought if we could get up on them early, get our crowd into it, that it would make things really tough for them.

"We've had some guys really step up in practice, and I wanted to reward them by giving them more minutes. That also allowed us to sub more and maintain fresh legs and high energy to just keep coming at them in waves. This time of year it's so important to take teams out as early as you can and not let them hang around. We jumped on them and wanted to keep pressing and running as much as possible."

By claiming its fourth straight double-digit win, Tyner (20-10) advances to the state tournament for the first time in four years. The Rams will find out who they play next when the brackets are released later this week. The boys' state tournament begins next Wednesday at Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center.

Signal Mountain lost 71-62 in overtime in another Class AA sectional at Livingston Academy. Owen Honroth scored 19 points for the Eagles (21-14).

"This is a dream come true," said Tyner senior Jeremy Elston, who along with Marquis Hinton led the Rams with 14 points each. Elston and fellow senior Jaylen Bowens also helped Tyner's football team play for a state title in December.

"I dreamed about this all season, but to actually get to the state tournament in basketball after making it to the state championship in football, it's unbelievable," Elston added. "The seniors have been through a lot. We've had three head coaches in four years, but Coach Ward really brought us together and has us playing our best right now."

Tyner opened by making seven of 10 3-point attempts in the first quarter, then began the second quarter with another 3 by Javon Craddock, one of three for him in the first half. The Rams also ratcheted up their press in the second quarter, allowing just six field-goal attempts and outscoring the Bees 20-9.

The first half was punctuated by Hinton's 35-foot basket just before the halftime buzzer.

The Rams forced turnovers on three of Upperman's first four second-half possessions and built the lead to 56-26 on a 3-pointer just before the third quarter ended. Nine players scored for Tyner, which also finished with nine 3s.

"This is the standard for what Tyner basketball should be doing every year now," Ward said. "I'm really happy for our seniors especially. It wasn't easy for them in their career, but they're getting rewarded for a lot of hard work now. Those guys, especially Jeremy Elson, have been great leaders for us.

"This season started off a little rough. But it's like a family, you grown and learn together. I tried to be firm, fair and consistent, and the guys have responded and are playing really good together now."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.