Two years later, the Blount Today sports desk would still sell the house for the rights to write the script for the movie.
It doesn’t get any bigger than Ryan Click’s game-winning basket at the buzzer to win the 2006-07 state tournament.
It had everything.
Rookie coach Mark Eldridge had Maryville in the championship game for the first time in his first season on the bench.
Prior to getting the ball on an out-of-bounds play with seconds remaining in double overtime, Click had attempted only one other shot for the entire tournament.
Click’s game-winning 3-pointer, lifting unranked Maryville to a 69-66 win over Clarksville in the Class AAA championship game, hit nothing but net with Click falling away. You could put it on cruise after something like that.
Click, in the two succeeding seasons, chose instead to focus on things he needed to do to improve his game.
“I’ve never even heard Ryan talk about it,” said Eldridge, whose Rebels travel to Alcoa tonight as the rush to district tournament play kicks into high gear.
The Lady Rebels and Lady Tornadoes tip things off at 6:30 p.m.
There was little choice but to keep his memorable basket in its proper place, Click said.
“I just had to realize that’s behind me now and try to work harder to get better,” he said. “We were all up in the clouds. It took a while for it to hit.”
When it did, Click said his father, Moe, helped him keep it all in prospective.
“He said, ‘Enjoy it, but don’t let it get the best of you,’” Click said. “‘Don’t let this be it.’”
The opening night of the state tournament, Maryville survived overtime against a then 33-4 Bradley Central team to advance.
“The first night I thought I’d seen it all,” Moe Click said. “The only thing I ever wanted to see my kid do was walk down the aisle at the Murphy Center to get dressed (for the game). That’s a neat thing to see your kid do.”
Four days later, it got really neat.
Moe Click said he allowed Ryan ample time to savor the shot, then moved quickly to make sure things didn’t get away from his son.
“I told him, ‘This could be one of the worst things to happen to you if you don’t move forward,’” Moe Click said.
Ryan being a sophomore helped with turning the page
“If you’re a senior and that happens to you, it might be hard to move on,” Moe Click said. “The fact that it happened as a sophomore makes it easier to move on.”
Click was a deadly sixth man off the bench for the Rebels that season, finishing the year shooting in the high 30s from 3-point range. He only improved upon his marksmanship as a junior, all while taking fewer shots.
“Ryan is such a great role player, he’s going to do whatever the team needs him to do,” Eldridge said. “I don’t think he shot as much last year because the need wasn’t there.”
This winter, the leader Rebels is bigger, stronger and better off the dribble, all while pacing a Maryville team whose chemistry looks better with every passing game.
“Last year he was that good, but people just didn’t notice,” Eldridge said. “He was so good this summer, we didn’t know if that would continue into the season. He has not dropped off at all.”
With the stretch run of the 2008-09 season in full flight, Click leads a Maryville team beginning to bear a striking resemblance to the Rebels that knocked off three top 10 powerhouses en route claiming Blount County’s first high school basketball title in 40 years.
Senior Jay Reynolds, like Click, a valuable role player on the ’07 championship team, has added polish to his game and, at 6-foot-9, has become every bit the inside force former Rebel Aaron Douglas was for Maryville that season. Tucker Haynes has slipped without a ripple into the role Reynolds once played.
Guards Alex Tipton, Cameron Langley, Stian Romberg and Click now comprise a perimeter quartet with the firepower the Jordan Damron-Wes Lambert-Kent Basile led Rebels once trained on opponents.
“We may not have as much talent as we’ve had in the past, but we play a lot harder,” Click said.
Like those championship Rebels, Maryville began modestly in December, picking up speed with postseason fast approaching.
“We’re excited about this team,” Eldridge said. “Sometimes we caught up with not playing so great in early December. You’re not supposed to be playing great then. Two years ago, we just peaked at the right time.”
These Rebels look to be following the same formula.
“Our goal each year is to get back to the state tournament,” Reynolds said. “Everybody’s getting better, especially the football players and sophomores. We’ll just see what happens.”
The 2006-07 championship season was a wild ride. It’s the getting there part the Rebels are focusing on with the District 4AAA tournament at Sevier County in mid February drawing near.
“We talk every year about getting back there,” Eldridge said. “We don’t talk about winning it. Getting down there is the big thing. Step 1 is just to get there.”
Two years ago, that approach produced an ending even Hollywood would have trouble matching.