Tyner's boys' basketball team followed a familiar storyline Saturday in reaching the District 6-AA tournament championship game. Much as they have in several key games lately, the Rams trailed for most of the first three quarters before rallying with a strong fourth to defeat Howard 54-41 in the semifinals at Red Bank.
After trailing by as many as eight points, the Rams outscored Howard 21-7 in the final quarter, ending the game on an 11-0 run.
"For some reason, it seems like this whole season we've had to play from behind," Rams coach E'Jay Ward said. "But because our guys have been in that situation so much, they don't panic. They've learned how to come back late."
The Rams (19-5) will face rival Brainerd (16-9) in Tuesday night's championship game at Red Bank. The Panthers beat East Ridge 61-50 in Saturday's other semifinal and won two of the three regular-season meetings with the Rams, both by five points or less. Tyner's lone win was by five.
In the girls' semifinals, Signal Mountain beat Tyner 41-23 and Red Bank beat Brainerd 64-55. Both consolation games will be played on Monday, while the girls' championship contest is set for Tuesday at 6, followed by the boys' title game.
Howard connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to begin the game and led for the first 19 minutes before a 7-0 run by the Rams was capped by Kameron Dozier's 3-pointer that gave his team its first lead.
The teams traded the lead seven times over the next seven minutes, but Tyner held the Hustlin' Tigers without a basket for the final 5:27.
Kobe Smith scored eight of his game-high 17 points for Tyner in the fourth quarter, and fellow post player Solomon Bridgeman added 10 and also grabbed five rebounds in the deciding final quarter.
"It started with our team practice before we played," Bridgeman said. "That's when we talked about being prepared for situations like this. At halftime, Coach Ward just reminded us about that and how we have been in here before and we know how to rally.
"As a senior, I'm just trying to be a leader, because my teammates are counting on me. Our goal is to get back to the state tournament, so we've got a winning mindset."