Murfreesboro- Although they had lost to Father Ryan in the regionals, MBA didn't mind playing the Fighting Irish on St. Patrick's Day for TSSAA Division II state title.
Shamrocks, Blarney stones and leprechauns aside, MBA held off a late Ryan rally attempt and won 67-62, collecting its third basketball championship in four years.
MBA's successful football/basketball coach Ricky Bowers installed a half-court trap defense that was trouble for Ryan's talented duo, shooters Billy May and Michael Hite.
"In the past three games this season against Father Ryan we didn't create enough pressure on their best players one-on-one," said the elated Bowers. "At the state tournament not as many fouls are called so it's a good time to trap. I watched tape of them last night and thought it would be a good thing and it worked."
"For some reason we started slow today and I think it came down to rebounds," stated a disappointed Ryan coach Doug Bontrager. "We cut the lead down to five or six points in the second half and then they'd get the rebounds and go back up. We just couldn't close the gap on their lead when we had the chance. We play a tough schedule and had wins over Lebanon and MLK to name a few. It's been a great year for us."
MBA jumped out to 13-2 land and never really looked back. With just under two minutes to play, Ryan would cut the MBA lead to six, 57-51, on a jumper by senior center Rodney Griffin. Seven seconds later, Dominique Morris answered with a basket for the Big Red to kill the Irish threat
"That new trap defense gave us problems, no doubt," admitted a disappointed Irish senior guard Michael Hite. "We didn't get relaxed like we're supposed to. They had pressure on me and wouldn't let me do anything. We didn't come prepared for that."
"It was a classic move by coach Bowers," remarked Big Red senior Ingle Martin, a University of Florida football signee. "The trap kept them from getting into a tempo early in the game."
For the Irish, Hite finished with 21 points and junior Billy May added 24 points, however, Father Ryan committed 17 turnovers.
"We knew if we played our game we would win this one," MBA's senior guard Carter Henderson, who led the Big Red in scoring with 15 points by hitting two of three from the 3-point line and seven of eight free throws.
"It was all coach Bowers with that trap defense. We put it in this week and the sideline trap, he put that in today right before the game. And we were up in the region tournament and Ryan made that rally. They almost did that here but we shut them down"
"It's something we're really proud of as a class," Martin added. "We wanted to end on that high note for coach Bowers. "Today all of us hit the boards and that made a difference. I came out of the tunnel saying there's always room for more."
Martin is scheduled for wrist surgery on his non-throwing hand and may play baseball prior to the needed operation. He is headed to Florida to join the MBA baseball team playing there during this week's spring break.
"I'm going to head to Daytona with the baseball team and see how it goes, so I may come back and have the surgery," says the talented senior, "It'll be up to my doctor."
When asked if he may try to walk-on with the University of Florida's basketball team, the future Gator laughed. "If they needed me I'd play, but I think coach Bowers would laugh if he heard that. I'm rooting for them now in the NCAA tournament."
The Big Red's multi-sport seniors have won six Division I state championships