Updated with more information at 9:20 p.m. on March 17, 2022.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — After stumbling through the second quarter, the Tyner Academy boys' basketball team completely fell flat in the third and never recovered.
The Rams trailed by nine points at halftime, then looked seemingly helpless to stop Milan's 15-0 run to open the second half, resulting in a 59-41 loss to the Bulldogs in a Class 2A state semifinal Thursday night at Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center.
Milan (25-7) will play East Nashville (32-3) in Saturday's championship game at noon Eastern. It's the first state final appearance for the Bulldogs since 1942, while East Nashville most recently played for a championship in 2014. Neither school has ever won a state title.
"It was frustrating," Rams coach E'Jay Ward said. "Once they got rolling, we just couldn't get anything going our way. They did a really good job of holding the ball and controlling the pace and making us work defensively.
"We just dug ourselves into too deep a hole in the second quarter. Even when we did catch a break late in the first half where we could've gotten back into it, we missed too many shots and they would come down and make a 3."
In earning their 18th straight win, the Bulldogs took their first lead on a Jodarius Robinson 3-pointer midway through the first quarter and never looked back. Milan shot 53% from the field in the first half, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range, while Tyner (24-11) made just 29% of its second-quarter shots, going 1-of-7 from long distance.
Four of Tyner's starters played all 16 minutes in the first half, and whether it was fatigue or just shock, the struggles that started in the second quarter only grew worse in the third as the Rams missed their first seven field-goal attempts and turned the ball over four times.
Milan, which reached the state tournament for the first time in 54 years, heated up even more in the third, shooting 6-of-10 — including 3-of-4 on 3-pointers — to expand its lead to 24. Five Bulldogs made at least one 3-pointer as they finished 7-of-11 for the game.
"Once we started making a couple of shots early in the third and our crowd got going, we started to feed off that excitement and momentum," said Robinson, who finished with a game-high 14 points after setting a career high with 38 in his team's double-overtime quarterfinal win Tuesday against York Institute.
Tyner, which started two seniors but has the majority of its roster returning, was led by freshman Rodney Henderson and junior Keelan Jackson, who each scored nine.
"We've got some guys returning next year who needed to experience this," Ward said. "We had some games where we were able to come back to win, but we need to know that you can't count on that. You have to play with more of a sense of urgency from start to finish."
Of the Rams' final seven wins, six were by single digits.
"We made it to the last four teams," Ward said. "We wanted to win another one to get to play for the championship, but I told the guys anything you want in life, sometimes it's going to be hard. You have to go back and work hard for it and fight for it, and I believe the group we have coming back will do that."