The Sweetness of Victory

Maryville, Alcoa claim middle school crowns

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By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

Sometimes you’ve just got to go with your gut.

Leading by one with less than a minute remaining, the Maryville Middle School Lady Bulldogs were looking for nothing other than a layup for a little insurance. To Alex Harrison, a nicely stroked jumper from the free-throw line was just as inviting.
"I just got in the lane and it was open," the Lady Bulldog guard said, "and I said, ‘I’m going to take it.’"

Harrison hit nothing but netting with 35 seconds remaining. When William Blount countered at the other end, Harrison’s bucket proved the difference as Maryville held off the Lady Wildcats, 25-24, in the Blount County Middle School Tournament championship game last Friday at Eagleton.

The boys championship game would prove less of a challenge for Alcoa’s Tornadoes. Tournament most valuable player Darrell Warren led the way with 19 points, with Zach Witt adding 14, Taharin Tyson 13, as Alcoa built an early lead in stopping Maryville, 56-41, for the boys crown.

Tournament most valuable player Alex Brezeale pumped in 11 points, including a 3, to keep the Lady Bulldogs out front for much of the girls championships. Brezeale’s first half shooting carried Maryville to an 11-7 lead at the break.

"It was very special," said Brezeale of the most valuable player award, "but I’ve got to thank my teammates because they were the ones that passed it to me and set picks for me."

Trecci McGhee added six points for Maryville, Tori Vaught 4, and the Lady Bulldogs would need it all once the backcourt duo of Sarah Wilson and Tatum Burstrom, nine points each, led the Lady Wildcats on a second half charge.

With Maryville looking to open a gap, Burstrom buried a 3-pointer from the head of the circle to get William Blount going.

Soon after, fellow guard Shelby Click picked off an errant Lady Bulldog pass and fed Wilson for a breakaway layup. The Lady Wildcats soon came on like a flash, closing within 17-15 after three quarters.

The low scoring, courtesy of a spread offense that consumed large chunks of time, played a key role in keeping William Blount close.

"They were trying to get backdoor cuts," Lady Bulldog coach Tony Humphrey said. "They were real patient on offense."
In hopes of countering a Maryville size advantage, they had little choice, Burstrom said.

"We were trying to slow things down so we could keep it close," she said.

"It kind of made a difference," Wilson said. "We had to change our offense so we could hit some threes."

The Lady Bulldogs had claimed this season’s previous two meeting by comfortable margins, William Blount coach Johnny Myers said. If the Lady Wildcats could free up space for Wilson, Burstrom and Click to get to the basket off the drive, William Blount might be able to win it at the end, he said.

"They beat us the last two games by 10 or eight points, and it was really worse than that," Myers said. "We wanted to shorten the game and at least negate their height."

Working in tandem, Wilson and Burstrom, both seventh-graders, uncorked a stunning-quick burst to pull within 23-22 with just over a minute to play. Harrison’s jumper at the 41-second mark provided just enough breathing room for Maryville to stay clear.

Alcoa 56, Maryville 41
Warren, Witt and Tyson are a dominant trio sure to be heard from in coming years. The player likely to give them voice at the high school level is point guard Hunter Ramsey.

Where Warren and Tyson were overpowering underneath, Witt too good a shooter from the outside, Ramsey handled the ball and ran Alcoa’s offense with poise well beyond his years. With jump shooter Gabe Dando, five points, another option, the targets were plentiful, he said.

"Having people that you can work with helps a bunch," Ramsey said. "I just know where my teammates are. I don’t really have to see them."

Practice, Alcoa coach Keith Stephens said, makes it so.

"We try to work on him (Ramsey) dishing off to the guards and the post players," he said. "They play hard, and that’s what
I like.

"Maryville’s a tough team. I got a little worried there (near the finish) and I had to pull the reins in (on the Tornadoes)."

Maryville got a huge game from guard Daniel Reiss, who paced his team back in it after a slow start en route to finishing with 16 points, all of it coming from second quarter on. Desmond Horne caught fire for the Bulldogs at the same time,
finishing with eight, with Jacob Horenberg add six, Stein Romberg five.

Falling back 14-4 after a quarter, the Bulldogs dug themselves too big a hole, Reiss said. Eleven second-half points from Warren, coupled with 5-of-8 free-throw shooting from Witt in the fourth, were then more than enough to keep Alcoa beyond Maryville’s reach.

"I think they’re a lot bigger and they outrebounded us," Reiss said. "We didn’t box out."

A free-throw line shot from Horne with three minutes remaining, coupled with a charity toss from Romberg, closed Maryville within 48-41 with two minutes left, but, with Warren reasserting himself underneath, the Bulldogs could get no closer.

"We kept making little runs, but we couldn’t quite finish it off," said Humphrey, who doubles as coach of the Maryville boys. "We had a few shots that could have made a difference if they’d gone."

All-tournament teams

Girls — Janie Brackett (Eagleton); Kayla Walker, Whitney Wolfe (Heritage); Alisha Shiverdecker, Kylie Russell (Alcoa); Tatum Burstrom, Sarah Wilson (William Blount); Tori Vaught, Trecci McGhee, Alex Brezeale (Maryville).

Most valuable player – Brezeale.

Boys — Dalton Wheeler, Jesse Crisp (Carpenters); Matt Wilburn, Eli Eakins (Heritage); Zach Witt, Taharin Tyson, Darrell Warren (Alcoa); Daniel Reiss, Desmond Horne, Stein Romberg (Maryville).

Most valuable player – Warren.

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