In it to win it

Rebels knock off Whites Creek to reach title game

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Murfreesboro — With one in the books, Maryville decided not to stop.

Jordan Damron went 8-of-10 from the free-throw line in the final minute, and the Rebels punched their ticket to the Class AAA championship game with a 65-55 semifinal win over sixth-ranked Whites Creek on Friday night at Middle Tennessee State University.

Damron would lead all scorers on the night with 19 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 3-of-6 from 3-point range. Senior Kent Basile
would add 15 points, junior Aaron Douglas 10 and 11 boards. Senior and Tennessee football signee Tyler Maples added nine points, junior Wes Lambert seven, as the Rebels shocked their second ranked opponent in successive nights.

Basile led four players in double figures with 21 points as Maryville claimed its first state tournament win in three trips with a 73-68 overtime decision over fourth-ranked Bradley Central in Friday’s quarterfinal.

"We said, ‘We’ve got a chance to do this thing and get to tomorrow night,’" said Maryville coach Mark Eldridge of the semifinal triumph. "That’s when we started to believe."

Having come up big for Maryville the night before, Basile was still simmering when the Rebels took the floor with the Cobras.

The 6-foot-1 shooting guard powered his way to the basket to record Maryville’s first eight points, signaling the Rebels would not settle for jump shots.

"I just wanted to go out there and start off really quick," Basile said. "Getting the jump on people is big.

"I knew I had (at most) two games left. I didn’t want to look back 20 years from now and wonder, ‘What if I’d done this?’ or ‘What if I’d done that?’"

Whites Creek, led by high-scoring guard Jamie Graham, kept pace with Maryville’s fast start, leading 11-10 after a quarter.

When Damron warmed with a pair of 3-pointers from behind the arc in the second eight minutes, with Basile adding a third, the message was clear, though.

The Rebels weren’t simply happy to be here. They’d come to compete.

"We just came together to do what we wanted to do," Douglas said. "We had nothing to lose. I think after we won that first one, everyone starting thinking we could do it."

Basile and Damron’s closing burst to finish the second quarter lifted Maryville to a 29-25 lead at the half. The Rebels were red hot from the field, tasking the Cobras with 55 percent shooting. What’s more, Maryville was limiting a super-quick Whites Creek team to 35 percent from the floor, all with a man-on-man defense for the duration.

"They’re so quick and athletic, we thought we’d have to go zone," Eldridge said. "I was surprised we were able to play man the whole game."

Maples had been key. Graham, a Vanderbilt football signee, entered the state tournament as one of the players to watch.

He’d lit up Craigmont for 25 the night before. Maples would be asked to shut down his third Division I-bound athlete in as many games with Graham, following a matchup with Clemson-bound Bradley Central guard Terrance Oglesby in the quarterfinals and Science Hill senior and future Georgetown Hoya Omar Wattad at sectionals.

Graham would finish the half 0-for-5 from the field, with only a free throw to show for 16 minutes of work.

"That was huge," Basile said.

"I really think Tyler is as good an athlete as anybody in the state," Eldridge said. "He absolutely shut down three of the best players in the state."

Whites Creek rallied in the third, pulling ahead 43-41 to start the final quarter.

"We came out and said, ‘We’ve got to answer," Maples said.

The Rebels opened the last eight minutes with a 14-6 run, with Damron’s NBA-range 3-pointer from the head of the circle with three minutes remaining opening a 54-47 Maryville lead.

"It was just one of those things," Damron said. "I was open. I said, ‘If I make this, it’s going to be a dagger."

When Whites Creek was forced to put the Rebel point guard on the line in the final minute, Maryville’s berth in Saturday’s championship game was all but assured.

"Going into the state tournament, Jordan was almost 90 percent from the free-throw line," Eldridge said. "Everyone loves to have a point guard who shoots free throws well. Any time Jordan goes up there, everybody feels good."

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