SMYRNA — Whitworth-Buchanan's boys capped of an improbable Rutherford County Middle School tournament run with a 44-39 championship win over Rockvale.
The Yellow Jackets entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed and avenged regular-season losses three times in four days.
“We grew up through this tournament and these guys never gave up and showed their fight,” Yellow Jackets head Omar Smith said. “We have kids that love the game. They compete every day and I’m proud of them.”
Whitworth trailed for over three quarters before taking a 36-34 early in the fourth on EJ Turner’s mid-range jumper. Turner fought through early foul trouble and led the Jackets with 20 points. He found his groove in the final frame either scoring or assisting on 12 WBMS points.
“(Turner) is so aggressive, and when teams play smart defense they will try to draw the charge,” Smith said of Turner's three first-half fouls. “I challenged him to hit the pull-up jump shot. It's a shot he practiced over and over in practice. He just found the confidence in it in the second half.”
WBMS post Alex Meza played a full 24 minutes in the post and logged a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Rockvale’s Maddox Bodenhamer kept the Ravens in it with a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds. Bodenhamer spearheaded a 9-2 run before the break to give Rockvale a 25-18 lead. The Yellow Jackets opened the half with six straight points and pulled even after the third.
“We switched up defenses to deny Bodenhamer the ball,” Smith said. “If we could execute our box-and-one, I liked our chances in the 4-on-4.”
WHITWORTH-BUCHANAN (44): EJ Turner 20, Alex Mesa 10, Ke’Zyian Lawrence 4, Malachi Gilliam 4, Rashad Mitchell 3, Michael Henderson 3
ROCKVALE (39): Taveon Canage 16, Maddux Bodenhamer 16, Cam Underwood 4, Kris Thompson 3
Oakland 17, Blackman 10
Oakland Middle finished on top after a tough defensive battle against the Lady Flames.
“It was a great defensive game and we tried some matchup zone and they executed it perfectly,” Oakland Middle coach Candace Thompson said. “We knew what Blackman’s game plan was; they want to speed you up and pressure the ball but if they don’t score, they can’t set that defense up.”
Oakland stymied Blackman for nearly an entire half, holding the Lady Flames to a single field goal in 12 minutes. Blackman’s Lyriq Mastin half-court heave at the buzzer made it an 8-5 halftime score.
Neither team budged through the third until Oakland’s Chloe Phillips scored the only field goal of the quarter. Phillips and Amelia Keating led the game with six and four points apiece.
“The beginning of the third dictated the outcome because when it’s that close any mistake can blow the whole game plan up, but our girls kept their heads in it,” Thomson said.
Blackman came on the short end of the low-scoring game, holding a team that averages over 40 per game to a 20-percent clip and 17 points.
“Blackman forced us to execute in the half court and hats off to them slow us down. We just made more plays at the end,” Thompson said.
OAKLAND (17): Chloe Phillips 6, Amelia Keating 4, Tishana Moore 3, Kalise Bass 2, Anslie Hopkins 2
BLACKMAN (10): Jacie Scott 6, Lyriq Mastin 4