"He told me to be big," Maryville sophomore Ryan Click said. "He told me to step up and not be a sophomore."
Two overtimes later, Click would become as big as it gets.
The Rebel reserve guard buried a falling-away 3-pointer from the head of the circle as time expired in double overtime, and Maryville stunned third-ranked Clarksville, 69-66, Saturday night at Middle Tennessee State University.
The game-winning basket was Clicks first points of the tournament, bringing with it Maryvilles first state basketball championship. With the last of a record-tying 10 football crowns won in December, Maryville became only the fourth school in Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association history to claim basketball and gridiron titles in the same school year.
Austin-East (86-87) was first to do the double, with Sweetwater (93-94) and Montgomery Bell Academy (99-00 and 00-01) following suit.
Maryville coach Mark Eldridge directed the Rebels to the title in his first season at the helm.
Junior Jordan Damron performed brilliantly in the championship game, leading the Rebels to the title with 29 points and 11 rebounds en route to being named the tournaments most valuable player.
Fellow junior Aaron Douglas delivered a championship game double-double as well, finishing with 17 points and 11 caroms. The 6-foot-7 Tennessee football commitment would finish just back of a triple-double with eight blocks.
As it had done in its previous two contests, Maryville came out firing in the championship game. Beginning with a bucket from Douglas underneath, followed quickly by a runner in the lane from leading scorer Kent Basile, the Rebels jumped on the Wildcats for an opening, 11-2 burst.
Clarksville (33-3) was perhaps still a little leg weary after surviving a triple-overtime with second-ranked Oakland the previous night, and, following a Damron 3-pointer from straightway with four minutes in the opening period, Maryville looked to be taking full advantage.
The Wildcats would finish the opening eight minutes a collective 2-of-15 from the field. The Rebels, by contrast, were red hot, with Damron, Douglas and Basile, each 2-for-3, leading the way.
It was 17-5 Maryville after a quarter and 28-17 Rebels at the half.
"Three (of Clarksvilles top players) had played 44 minutes the night before," Eldridge said. "You knew it would be tough to get back. They came in a little leg tired and we were able to jump on them.
"We knew at some point theyd make a run."
The Rebels looked ready to end things early when a Wes Lambert breakaway layup off an assist from Basile opened the advantage to 37-20 Maryville with four minutes to play in the third. With a 7-2 run to close the frame, Clarksville began to claw its way back.
Basile, nursing four fouls, collected his fifth with three minutes to play in regulation. Maryvilles one-time, 17-point lead had been whittled to 50-48 with 39 seconds remaining.
"That was a very good team that got backed into a corner and had no choice but to fight," Eldridge said.
Following a timeout, as the rest of the Rebels took their places near the Clarksville basket, Lambert walked to the Wildcat bench and waited for them to break the huddle. Specifically, he was waiting for Wildcat star Ryan Harper, a gifted shooter, whom Lambert had chased over picks for much of the second half.
Senior and defensive stopper Tyler Maples had held Harper in check
for a half, working his way into foul trouble in the
"Tyler was just gutted," Eldridge said.
Now, Harper belonged to Lambert.
"He was their go-to shooter," Lambert said. "You knew they were going to try to get him the ball. I just wanted him to know I was going to be there and he wasnt going to score."
Lambert delivered, forcing the Wildcats to look elsewhere for a hero. They would find him, with junior Tyrone Caldwell getting to the line for a pair of tying free throws with seconds to play.
Things went from bad to worse for the Rebels in the first overtime, with Maples collecting his fifth foul with two minutes to play in the period. With two of his teams biggest weapons now lost for the game, Damron took charge.
The sweet-shooting guard hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open a four-point gap with 47 seconds left. When Clarksville trimmed the deficit to two, the Maryville sharpshooter anted up again, going 3-for-4 from the charity stripe to open the lead to 62-57 with 10 seconds to play.
The Wildcats got a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws from Caldwell inside the final three seconds to send it to an second extra session.
"The one thing weve preached the last two weeks is mental toughness," Eldridge said. "When things dont go your way, you can settle or you can change things."
Damron didnt hit the game-winning basket for Maryville, but hes the reason Click and the Rebels would get the chance in the second overtime. With Clarksville out front, 66-63, with 1:49 to play, Damron pulled the Rebels even with his sixth 3-pointer of the contest. With Clarksville looking to take the last shot with 27 seconds left, Damron would draw a charge on the defensive end to give Maryville one last crack.
"That was as big a play as the one Click made to win it," Eldridge said.
The game-winning play wasnt designed for Click. Douglas and 6-foot-8 sophomore Jay Reynolds underneath were first and second option, respectively, with Damron inbounding the ball beneath the Maryville basket.
When Clarksville jammed the middle, Damron found Click open just left of the key.
"I saw that Aaron and Jay were guarded," he said, "and I had to get rid of it. I wasnt going to risk a five (second) count right there."
Following orders, Click came up big for the Rebels seconds later when Maryville needed him most.