East Hamilton and Baylor took different paths Friday to earn boys’ championship game berths at the Times Free Press Best of Preps basketball tournament at Chattanooga State.
The Hurricanes had to work in overtime for the second consecutive night to clip Tyner in a 73-68 thriller, while Baylor clamped down defensively to stymie Brainerd, 45-33. The semifinal winners will meet at 8:30 tonight, while Brainerd and Tyner will play for third place at 5:30 p.m.
East Hamilton (12-2) built a 12-point lead on Tyner (10-3) after a Cam Montgomery 3-pointer early in the third quarter. The Canes had controlled the game on both ends to that point, but the Rams quickly turned things around with a 15-0 run to end the period.
“The first half we stuck to our game plan and built up a 10-point lead, but the second half we made some defensive changes that I think allowed them to get back into it,” East Hamilton coach Frank Jones said. “We had gotten away from our offense and gotten a little impatient. On defense, they were getting to the basket too easily, so we were giving up too many easy baskets in the paint.”
Led by the hyperaggressive play of Kobe Smith and strong finishing from Amon Grace, Tyner’s momentum continued in the fourth period. The two combined for seven points during a 9-3 run that gave the Rams a 57-53 lead with 4:28 to play, but Darwin Randolph started a 6-0 run with a hard drive that put the Canes back up two with 1:21 left.
Grace scored on a drive, Melique Hambrick forced a turnover on a jump ball and Smith sent it to overtime with another strong drive with 10 seconds left. It was there Jones decided to try to keep Smith from controlling things in the extra session.
“When we went into the overtime period, we adjusted to try and shut down the Smith kid because he was really hurting us,” he said. “We have been in this situation before, so our kids were ready for it and I’m proud of them for pulling it out.”
Montgomery, as he did in Thursday’s win over McCallie, starred in overtime, hitting a 3-pointer and getting a steal and a layup that put the Canes ahead for good moments later. Schramm led East Hamilton with 17 points, followed by Montgomery with 15 and Randolph and Walker with 14 each.
Grace led Tyner with 25 points, with Smith adding 19 and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Baylor’s win was earned on the defensive end. The Red Raiders (10-0) held Brainerd to less than 30 percent shooting and created 17 turnovers, intent on making the Panthers (8-7) beat them from outside the lane.
“We wanted to be a little more conservative on our closeouts to the perimeter because they are such good drivers,” Baylor coach Mark Price said. “They have some talented guys, and we knew we were going to give up some tough ones, but most of what they made they had to work for. I think we frustrated them.”
As good as the defense was, though, the Baylor offense kept Brainerd in the game through the first two periods. An 18-13 halftime lead was cut to one after the Panthers started the second half with back-to-back baskets from Trey Owten and Malik Hyman.
However, Greyson Linderman hit a 3-pointer — Baylor’s only trey of the game — and Nick Kurtz scored five straight to key a 10-2 run that proved too much for the Panthers to overcome. Moments later, Blake Pruitt completed a three-point play and Wiley Pippenger had a pair of putbacks to stretch the lead to 14.
“Tonight was one of our worst offensive outputs as far as execution goes,” Price said. “The good thing is we didn’t let a poor offensive outing affect our defensive effort, so that’s what I’m most proud of after this game.
“This tournament is full of really talented teams. This is the kind of thing that prepares us for our conference, so I’m real thankful for the opportunity to get in the championship game. It would be a great thing to be able to win this thing.”
Kurtz topped Baylor with 13 points and eight rebounds, with Beyaun Hendricks adding 10 points.
Hyman led Brainerd with 11 points.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.