Murfreesboro- It will be an all-Nashville Division II championship game on Saturday as MBA and Father Ryan advanced with semifinal wins yesterday afternoon in the TSSAA boys state tournament at MTSU's Murphy Center.
Defending state champ MBA came from behind to edge Chattanooga McCallie 58-51 in a game much closer than the score, while Father Ryan won its fourth game in a row this season over Brentwood Academy with a 67-43 victory. The loss ended the heralded high school career of Eagles' star David Harrison, who had a less than stellar performance.
In the first Division II semifinal, MBA and McCallie both shot 34% from the field in a game full of momentum swings and huge plays.
McCallie jumped out to an 8-0 lead and the Big Red didn't score their first points until MBA's senior forward Moses Osemewegie hit two free throws with 4:15 to play in the first. He finished with a game-high 14 rebounds and 14 points.
In a score resembling a football game, McCallie led 14-10 at the end of the first quarter. An Osemewegie dunk in the first minute of the second period knotted the score at 14-all and MBA took its first lead at 6:37 in the period on a 3-pointer by Evan Abrahams.
The Big Red out-rebounded McCallie 43-40 and led 28-24 at the half.
"It was hard to predict how this game was going to go and what kind of energy would be out there," said MBA coach Ricky Bowers. "I think it came down to really to was when you had to have a shot, we made them. When you had to have a rebound, we got it and when we needed a loose ball, we got it and they didn't."
MBA senior guard Matthew Bills scored nine points for the Big Red and was three for four in 3-pointers. Prior to this game, he hadn't shot with such precision. "I knew we had it in us to come back. We always fight hard and our defense paid off."
The second half resembled a boxing match as McCallie flexed its muscles and took the lead 31-30 with 4:33 in the third during a 20 to 5 period scoring run. The Blue Tornado led 44-33 after three periods.
"We have great basketball players. Moses and Dominique, I don't think anybody can stop these guys," declared MBA senior Ingle Martin, describing the double digit deficit. Martin has committed to play football at the University of Florida."I just never really had any doubts. McCallie played a great game you know."
Brainerd's junior 6-foot-7 center Clint Feher scored his team's last points at the 5:20 mark on a long trey. He is the son of former Vanderbilt basketball great, Butch Feher, a member of the Commodore's fabled F-Troop. The younger Feher finished with 11 rebounds and 8 points.
The Big Red trailed 51-44 until the 3:15 to go mark, when Steve Ingram canned a three to start the final MBA surge. Ingram scored 13 points and finished with 11 boards.
Senior Dominique Morris hit two successive jumpers to knot the game 51-all. He would finish with 14 points. "We just looked to our coach for advice and to calm us down," said Morris. "He related to us that it wasn't a big deal and that we were down by a little bit but it was no problem and we could get it back."
Five Big Red free throws and an Ingram jumper at the buzzer, sealed the win in the last 1:25 for MBA.
MBA will face Father Ryan who advanced to the Division II finals with a convincing 67-43 win over Brentwood Academy. The score could have been more lopsided as Ryan led the entire game in picking up its fourth victory over their rivals this season.
"We beat them three times so we played the same way today and we prevailed," Ryan coach Doug Bontrager said.
"We tried not to think about the previous wins over Brentwood Academy," said Irish senior guard Nick Marasa. "We just tried to go out and play our game, play defense, guard their guards heavily and shut down David Harrison. We did that."
Brentwood Academy's Harrison fouled out of the game at the 1:10 mark of the third period on a controversial technical foul. He finished with the mere-mortal stats of 10 points and 4 rebounds. "It was a bad feeling sitting on the bench for the fourth quarter," said the most-highly recruited basketball player in the state. "It was my last game I ever had the chance to play for Brentwood Academy and I was sitting out."
Senior Quinton Thompson and the rest of the Brentwood Academy squad felt the pressure when their 7-foot star hit the bench. "It wasn't good to be out there by myself without David," said Thompson.
"I feed off of David, he's our go to player but coach told us not to give up when David fouled out just to keep going and play as hard as we can." Thompson finished with a game-high 22 points in the losing effort.
"It's been great to see him grow as a person," said the Eagles' coach Robert Butler, when asked about his star center playing his final game for Brentwood Academy. "We're excited we're going to be a part of his life from now on, to watch him develop as a player and be part of that."
Ryan's senior guard Michael Hite finished with 17 points to lead the Irish, who improved to 24-5 heading into the Saturday showdown with MBA.
"We feel pretty good right now," continued coach Bontrager. "We know we have a lot of work ahead, because MBA is a really good team. Like I told our kids, they (MBA) know us, we know them, there's really not much to say. We're just going to practice Friday and shoot around, then show up Saturday and hope we win."
The Fighting Irish will be playing on St. Patrick's Day - tomorrow - against MBA (19-10) in the TSAA Division II title game at 1:00 p.m. at MTSU.