Knoxville — Twenty-four hours later, Oak Ridge did it again.
The third-ranked Wildcats rallied from five points down with four minutes to play, going on to end the season for second-ranked Maryville, 60-55, in a Region 2AAA semifinal Tuesday night at Bearden.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to Oak Ridge because they made the big plays and we didn’t,” Maryville coach Mark Eldridge said.
The loss ends the season for the defending state champion Rebels, the last Blount County high school basketball team left standing. It came only a day after the Lady Wildcats eliminated the Lady Rebels from postseason in a girls semifinal on Monday.
Maryville senior Jordan Damron took the loss hard. At the same time, the District 4AAA Player of the Year said he and fellow seniors Wes Lambert, Aaron Douglas and Jared Wallace are proud of their legacy.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “We made history. At this point, we’ve got to look back on all we’ve accomplished as a team.”
“We’ve got a lot to keep our heads up about it,” Douglas said. “They’ll never be able to take down that (state championship) banner.”
Eldridge is of the same sentiment.
“I’m so thankful they got to live through what they did last year,” he said.
The Rebels (26-5) fell to a powerhouse team in the Wildcats, who got an unlikely closing burst from reserve Trent Tucker.
Two Tucker 3s sparked Oak Ridge’s finishing run. Four Maryville turnovers fed the surge, with the Rebels finishing with 21 turnovers on the night.
Maryville’s only basket over the final 4:39 came on a Lambert layup with 33 seconds to play, trimming the Oak Ridge lead to three.
There’s no shame in losing to the Wildcats, the state’s No. 1-ranked team for much of the season.
“We knew one great team was going home,” Damron said. “Unfortunately, it was us.”
Douglas, 12 points, Lambert, 11, and Damron, 10, each finished in double figures in their final game as Rebels. Junior Jay Reynolds delivered a strong game for Maryville underneath, finishing with 13 points. Fellow junior Ryan Click, whose 3-pointer as time expired in double overtime won last year’s state title game, finished with seven points.
It’ll take some time for the sting of Tuesday’s loss to ease. When it gets tough, there’s always last year’s miracle run to Murfreesboro to remember, something, as Douglas alluded to, no one can ever take away.
“That’s why basketball is a great game,” Eldridge said. “Not everybody gets to go down there.”