Damron does it again

Rebel senior rips Bearden for 35 in overtime thriller

Jordan Damron doesn’t own Bearden, but the Maryville High School guard has sure come up with a sizeable down payment so far this season.

Damron got crazy hot in overtime Tuesday night at James Campbell Gymnasium, pumping in back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to send the school’s student section into a frenzy.

Second-ranked Bearden battled back, but the damage proved too much as the sixth-ranked Rebels held on for a 73-71 upset in an all-important District 4AAA clash.

Damron finished with 35 points, 32 of them coming after halftime, as the Rebels (17-3, 10-0) remained unbeaten in league play. Damron’s overtime flame-on would see the 6-foot senior finish with eight 3-pointers on the night.

“There aren’t many people who are going to score 32 in the second half,” Maryville coach Mark Eldridge said. “A lot of the colleges around here don’t know how good a basketball player he is.”

Defending Class AAA champion Maryville stopped the Bulldogs (21-2, 8-2) in double overtime, 94-92, earlier this season in Knoxville. Damron poured in 42 that night. He had 29 when the two teams met last postseason.

The Rebels were a bit sore with the release of the first media state basketball poll last week, which saw Maryville debut at No. 7.

Even sixth is a little rough for a championship team returning three starters.

It helped to make Tuesday one of the state’s most anticipated games this season, and Maryville’s sweet-shooting perimeter trio of Ryan Click, Wes Lambert and Damron did not disappoint.

Headlined by 6-foot-9, 259-pound junior Demonte Simpson, the Bulldogs possess a towering frontcourt. Simpson would pump in 25 points Tuesday, adding a double-double with 14 rebounds that included nine offensive caroms. Simpson would put eight of them back for points.

“They pounded us on the boards tonight,” Eldridge said.

The Rebels have a big front line, too.

Aaron Douglas, 11 rebounds, six blocks, four points, and Jay Reynolds, seven points, played Bearden even to a degree underneath. On the perimeter, the backcourt posse of Damron, Click and Lambert afforded Maryville’s motion offense too many options.

“When teams focus on our perimeter guys, it opens it up for Jay and Douglas,” Damron said.

With the 6-foot-9 Reynolds tossing in a couple of early jump hooks, Bearden was forced to pull the defense in close. On cue, Click responded with 14 first-half points, most of it coming on four deep 3s.

“We didn’t really set anything up,” Click said. “I was just the one hitting. It was just one of those nights it felt good coming off (the fingers).”

Maryville built leads of 18-13 after a quarter and 31-27 at the half, with Damron 1-for-9 from the field at the break. With Lambert adding seven of his nine points through two quarters, including a trey, the Rebels bought enough time for Damron to find his aim. When he did, it was really something.

“The team knows when he hits two or three, he’s got the green light,” Eldridge said.

As it had done in the opening half, Maryville first got Bearden to concern itself with guarding the basket. This time it was Douglas doing the heavy lifting, his three trips to the free-throw line netting four quick points as the Rebels opened an eight-point lead.

With a quick combined burst from Gabriel Campbell and Nathan Parker, Bearden trimmed the deficit to three, 35-32, with five minutes to play in the third. That’s when it started.

After only three points at the half, Damron had 14 by the end of third, nine of the points coming on three really deep 3-pointers. Junior Zane Winders cut to the basket for a sweet hoop off a Damron feed, and, with the contest growing ever more intense with each possession, the Rebels held a 50-49 lead to start the fourth.

Simpson kept Bearden right there, and Eldridge experimented with different defenses to slow the Bulldog center. There was more than Tuesday involved, he said.

“We wanted to see some things tonight to prepare for the (district) tournament,” he said.

Bearden pulled even for the first time at 61-61 on Parker’s bucket in the lane with 1:28 remaining. The 6-4 junior would force overtime with a layup with 40 seconds remaining, knotting the score at 63-all. Blake Jenkins gave the Bulldogs their only lead of the night, 65-63, with the first basket in overtime.

Damron erased the deficit with a 3 less than half a minute later.

The Rebel point guard looked ready to ice it with four seconds remaining, his steal in backcourt forcing the Bulldogs to commit an intentional foul to prevent a run-out basket. Damron hit one of two free throws to open the lead to two, and, with the ball out of bounds, Maryville looked in position to close it out.

Bearden would get a reprieve by forcing a five-second call as the Rebels tried to inbound the ball at halfcourt. The Bulldogs would get off two shots from in front before time expired, with both looks bouncing away.

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