Blackman's boys won their home opener 57-44 over the LEAD Academy Panthers Friday night.
The Blaze began the game with a 9-0 run en route to a 17-6 first-period lead to set the tone for the game. Blackman led by as many as 19 twice in the game, although the Panthers fought through and never let the game completely out of hand.
“We knew they (Blackman) were the number eight team in the state and basically we wanted to come in and prove a point,” LEAD’s Kam Elder and the game’s leading scorer (21) said. “I feel like we did good. We battled. We didn’t play our best but we gave it a shot. It was tough.”
The Panthers cut the Blackman lead to nine early in the second before a 13-3 Blaze run led by TJ Cross, who came off the bench and led his team in scoring. The run pushed the lead to 32-13.
“Coming off the bench I just want to do what I can to help my team out,” Cross said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s scoring points, getting rebounds, or playing defense I’m willing to do anything.”
Elder then shouldered his team with a 12-point effort in the period as the Panthers mounted their own 12-2 run to close out the half with the margin back to 11 at 34-23.
“I used ball fakes to get the defense off their feet and then get to the cut and draw fouls,” Elder said. “My mentality was to keep fighting.”
The second half was fairly even. The Blaze spread the scoring around with eight different players contributing. The Blackman defense held LEAD to just 30 percent from the field in the second half, but the Panthers were able to shoot 80 percent from the charity stripe in the half with Blackman in foul trouble.
The Blaze also able to shut down the Panthers 6-foot-8 center Ben Underwood. Strong defensive efforts by Cross and Jalen Stayton held the big man to just seven points and three rebounds.
“Coach (Barry Wortman) emphasized him (Underwood) being a shooter,” Cross said. “I knew I had to not let him shoot and put the ball on the floor and try to drive because that was one of his weaknesses.”
The Panthers head to KIPP Nashville Collegiate Tuesday to open their district play, and Blackman opens district play as well at Riverdale on Tuesday
Blackman 57, LEAD 44
Blackman (57): TJ Cross 9, Zoryn Harrington 7, Ray Tyler 6, Jacquari Johnson 6, Jalen Page 5, Jabahri Mastin 5, Jalen Stayton 5, Kevarius Martin 5, Kaden Paul 4, Kailon Benton-Hamilton 3, Todd Lark 2
LEAD (44): Kam Elder 21, Jason Rhodes 11, Ben Underwood 7, Keshon Lewis 4, Karay Carr 1