Down 14 after just five minutes of its Division II-AA East basketball game with McCallie, Chattanooga Christian came all the way back.
The Chargers got to within three twice, but the Blue Tornado hung on and claimed a 59-53 win Friday night at CCS. With the win, McCallie completed a regular-season sweep of CCS and improved to 13-14 overall and 2-2 in the region. Chattanooga Christian dropped to 15-7 and 1-3.
"I was really proud of our guys," said Tornado coach David Conrady. "We relaxed a little there (early), and in the second quarter the game became more what we thought it would be."
Chargers coach Eddie Salter sat three usual starters through the game's first eight minutes for having violated team rules. McCallie took full advantage, sprinting to a 17-3 lead on an Eric Rivers 3-ball five minutes in.
Back to full strength in the second quarter, Chattanooga Christian pushed back. The Chargers could get no closer than six, though, and trailed by 10 at halftime.
The hosts roared out of the gate in the second half, scoring nine straight — six of which came from Michael Houge — to close within three. McCallie weathered that storm and stretched the lead back to 10 late in the third period.
Chattanooga Christian made another run, closing to within 43-40 on a monster Hogue jam with 4:57 left. From there, though, the Tornado made 10 of 12 free throws to preserve the road win. On the night, McCallie made 19 of 22 from the line.
"That's what you've got to do when you come into an opposing gym against a good team — and (CCS) is good," Conrady said.
Salter said his decision to sit three of his starters for the first eight minutes with an eye toward "doing what's right."
"You have to be accountable," he said. "Hopefully, we fixed some things. I thought the young guys did well. We just couldn't make that one more play when we got close."
Rivers led McCallie with 19 points, while John Hardy contributed 14. Chattanooga Christian's Houge led all scorers with 28 and was the only Charger in double figures.
Contact Bob Gary Jr. at email@example.com.