By the time many of the late-arriving Loudon fans found their seats inside Brainerd's High-Jackson gym Sunday afternoon, the outcome had been all but settled.
They had driven more than an hour to watch their boys' basketball team in a Region 3-AA quarterfinal postponed by bad weather a day earlier, but it took Brainerd less than two minutes to jump out to a commanding 12-0 lead. The Panthers maintained a double-digit cushion for much of the rest of the game and won 65-48 to advance to Tuesday's semifinals at Loudon, where they will take on second-ranked Sweetwater at 6 p.m.
Tuesday's other semifinal will be an all-Chattanooga affair as Tyner will face Howard at 7:30.
"We haven't been starting well over the last four games, but we definitely did today," Brainerd coach Levar Brown said. "We gave ourselves a pretty good cushion, which was good because we had a stretch where we weren't very patient against their zone and it let them make a run back at us."
Brainerd's defensive quickness gave Loudon fits early, and on the Redskins' first six possessions they turned it over three times and missed their first three shots. Once Brainerd (17-10) had established dominance, its lead dipped below double figures just once in the first half.
However, Loudon (24-4) began the third quarter on a 9-1 run to pull within five before Brown called a timeout to settle his team down, which resulted in the Panthers answering with 10 consecutive points. Most of those came off their full-court press, which led to 25 Loudon turnovers for the game.
"I don't like calling timeouts unless I really feel like we need it, but that was one time that we needed it," Brown said. "I just wanted to tell our guys to slow down a little, settle down and find good shots. After that we got the momentum and energy back on our side."
Senior post Trey Owten accounted for six of Brainerd's points during the 10-0 run that re-established command, and he finished with a season-high 17 points. Kevin Halfacre added 11 points and LaDerron 10 as nine Panthers scored.
"My team had faith in me to get me the ball and let me do what I needed to do to help us win," Owten said. "It was do or die today, so we came out ready to play our game."