Jordan evens the score

Rebel junior makes up for one that got away

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Murfreesboro — After Clarksville erased a 17-point Maryville second-half lead Saturday, Harold Damron couldn’t help but think back.

Twenty-five years ago, the Alcoa High School Tornadoes had also looked to have a championship put away. Damron had been brilliant that night, tossing in a career high 33 points in the Class A state title game. Alcoa led Friendship High by a seemingly comfortable margin with only minutes to play.

Friendship won, 63-61.

"We basically blew the game at the end," Damron said. "We had the lead and the ball in the closing minutes and couldn’t finish it out."

Twenty-five years later, Damron’s son, Maryville junior Jordan Damron, was staring down the same scenario. This time, the home team would hang on and win one of the more memorable state championship games of all time.

Sophomore Ryan Click, who’d yet to hit a shot in the tournament, having attempted only two, buried a fall-away 3-pointer as time expired in double overtime, and Maryville held off Clarksville, 69-66, in the Class AAA title game at Middle
Tennessee State University.

The crown was the first ever for Maryville in basketball. With the football Rebels winning the last of a record-tying 10 state championships in December, Maryville became only the fourth Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association school to win basketball and gridiron titles in the same school year.

Click became only the sixth player in the history of the boys state tournament to decide a championship game with a shot at the buzzer. The sophomore guard is only the third player to do it in an extra session.

Without Damron, named the tournament’s most valuable, none of it would have ever happened.

"The atmosphere felt like a state championship game, and my nerves felt like it as a championship game," he said. "Once the ball went up, you just play."

Just how serious the Rebels were about securing the school’s first basketball title actually surfaced the night before, when Damron and senior Tyler Maples, roommates in Murfreesboro, decided to shut down the video game early and turn in.
"We said we’ve got to play Tiger Woods another day," Damron said.

The Rebels looked well on the way to blowing the Wildcats out midway through the third quarter. Clarksville, having survived a triple-overtime affair with second-ranked Oakland in the previous night’s semifinal, was having a terrible time shooting. Damron, by contrast, was filling the Murphy Center rims with shots, finishing with 29 points on 6-of-13 shooting from 3-point range, 7-of-9 from the free-throw line.

More than shooter, the all-court guard raked off 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double, matched only by center Aaron Douglas, who tossed 17 to go with 11 boards.

Following a Wes Lambert breakaway layup, Maryville led 37-20 with three minutes to play in the third.

Clarksville, like Friendship all those years ago, tore back.

In the opening minutes of the fourth, the Rebels lost leading scorer Kent Basile with his fifth foul. By the close of regulation, the Wildcats had pulled even at 50. Just as things looked as if they couldn’t get any worse, the Rebels would lose Maples to his fifth foul with two minutes to play in the first overtime.

With Maryville down a basket at that point, Damron steadied the Rebels and led them to Click’s game-winning shot.

Damron scored Maryville’s final nine points in the first extra session, six of it coming on a pair of deep 3-pointers.

Clarksville drew even with five points in the final three seconds to send it to a second overtime, tied at 62. Damron responded with less than two minutes to play in the second extra session, his sixth trey on the night pulling Maryville into a 66-66 tie.

At each and every turn when Maryville needed a big basket during its state tournament run, Damron had been there. He’d
averaged a sizzling 20 points per game for the tournament. His free-throwing shooting in the previous night’s semifinal — 8-of-10 in the last 1:25 — had held off sixth-ranked Whites Creek, 65-55.

When it mattered most, though, Damron would get Maryville to the finish line with his defense. With the Wildcats looking to exhaust the remaining 27 seconds and themselves take the last shot, Damron drew a charge on the defensive end to get the Rebels the ball back.

"He got up kind of slow after that one," Harold Damron said.

Harold said Jordan and he didn’t talk much about the former’s state tournament run 25 years ago.

"I kind of let him do his thing," Harold Damron said. "This was his time. I didn’t want to weigh him down with glory day stories."

In return, Damron gave his father the memory of a championship game performance that’ll last a lifetime.

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