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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Notre Dame's Tim Vaughn (1) works against Boyd Buchanan's Jacob Oliver (3) at Tom Jett Gymnasium on the campus of Boyd Buchanan School on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Bucs' high-pressure 'defense and toughness'

The hourglass sand eventually runs out, but five Boyd Buchanan seniors are trying to make every last day, minute and second count on the basketball court.

Ranked fourth in the Associated Press state Division II-A high school poll, the Buccaneers want to remain true to their identity that began forming late in the summer of 2018 when coach Josh Templeton arrived.

"The biggest thing for us to focus on going into the postseason is be who you are," senior Eli Evans said. "For us it's defense and toughness."

For the length of the court (84 feet) and width (50 feet), pressure intensifies for opponents against a Boyd Buchanan defense that leads the state by giving up only 39.6 points per game.

The Bucs apply man-to-man pressure as soon as the ball is inbounded, and open space is rare for opposing scorers. They have to earn their points the hard way.

"I think it's been proven over our two years with Coach T that our defense has been our biggest weapon and has been really solid," said senior Will Emery, who has hauled in more than 20 rebounds in a game before. "Our defense has to be there every night, and we don't let up."

Only one team has reached 60 points this season against the Bucs (21-4), while just three others have surpassed the 50-point plateau.

"This team is built really well for defense," Templeton said. "I have two of everything: two tough guys who can guard the ball, two big guys who can defend the rim, two long guys who can guard on the perimeter and inside, along with two guys who can make the game wild and crazy."

The Bucs have 1,000-point career scorers in Ian Johnson and Evans, but even on an off night shooting the team feels confident it can win a low-scoring game.

"Every day we show up and say we are going to guard the best we can today," senior versatile defender Preston Edmondson said. "We push each other to improve on something new every day, and we all trust each other and are on the same page."

Hoping to take the program to its first state tournament since 2014, the Bucs look to cross off one goal at a time. Tonight at 8:30 they play Silverdale Baptist Academy in the Division II-A District 2 semifinals at Notre Dame High School.

A locked-in senior class, which also includes starting guard Jacob Oliver, has helped change the expectations of a program and school whose football program made a tremendous leap from zero to eight wins from 2018 to 2019 by buying into "warrior culture."

From always saying "Good" even while staring adversity in the face to their relentless hard work, the basketball Bucs have been a shining light for Boyd Buchanan.

"At the end of the day they are going to be happy and say I gave all I had," said Templeton, whose team is 43-12 the past two seasons.

"There are a lot of days I have had to kick them out of the weightroom or shut the lights out in the gym and say we have to go. They are inspiring to little kids who have hoop dreams and to every man who is trying to finish strong in life. It's inspiring to watch them get after it and not whine about anything."

A "once in a decade" type team according to Templeton, the Bucs aren't taking anything for granted this postseason.

"This is our (seniors) last time playing together, so we need to enjoy every single moment and play every game like it's our last," Evans said.

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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