Starting very slowly but finishing very fast, Hunters Lane still missed a golden opportunity to get to the boys state tournament.
Beech High rushed to a 36-22 lead, then held on for dear life, edging the host Warriors 48-46 Monday night in the boys Class AAA sectional to qualify for state and bring a sudden end to Hunters Lane’s great season.
Before a packed house at Hunters Lane, Beech jumped to a quick 8-3 lead and led 11-7 at the quarter break when guard Valentino Bryant hit a long three at the buzzer.
Senior post player John Taylor scored 23 to lead Beech, including a pair of slam dunks, and Bryant added 10.
“Give them (Hunters Lane) credit, you always worry against a team like that when there’s that much time left,’’ said Beech Coach Darrin Joiner. “They became much more aggressive in the fourth quarter, and I didn’t do a good job of telling our guys to attack the basket more.’’
“When I get the dunks like that, it gets everyone hyped up,’’ Taylor said. “But we’re not done yet, we’re going to practice hard and head to state with a lot of momentum.’’
Hunters Lane played very methodically the first three quarters and its shooting was ice cold against the Bucs’ tough zone defense. Then, trailing 42-29, the Warriors suddenly awoke and turned the game into their favor with a helter skelter, all court type game.
Senior point guard Antwan Van Lier virtually carried the Warriors on his back, leading the rally and scoring 12 of his team-high18 points in the fourth quarter. He hit two straight threes, the second bringing Hunters Lane to within 43-39.
After slicing the lead to two at 43-41 with 1:50 left, Hunters Lane missed myriad of chances to tie or take the lead, but never caught up.
After a steal, Joseph Wilbert missed the second of a two-shot foul, leaving the Warriors behind 43-42. Wilbert’s driving layup again cut it to one again before Bryant’s two free throws upped the lead to 47-44.
Hunters Lane had another chance to tie when Delando Head scored underneath, making it 47-46 and was fouled with 14.2 seconds left, but his free throw rimmed out.
After Reece Chamberlain hit 1-of-2 free throws, making it 48-46 with nine seconds left, Hunters Lane had two more chances. DeMarco Starling was fouled under the basket with one second left, but missed both free throws.
After the second miss, the ball went out of bounds and after a lengthy discussion, the officials awarded the ball to Hunters Lane with .8 second left. But the ball was knocked away as the buzzer sounded as jubilant Buc players raced onto the court.
“It was a tough loss,’’ Van Lier said softly. “We had a lot of opportunities.’’
“It seemed like we were sleepwalking the first three quarters,’’ said Coach Anthony Sewell whose team ended 26-5. “We just didn’t play with enough energy. By the time we made our big run, we expended a too much energy to finish it.’’
Wilbert scored 12 points for the Warriors and Starling added seven.
Beech (30-4) tied a school record with its 30th win and will learn its quarterfinal opponent in the TSSAA pairings meeting Saturday morning in Murfreesboro.
• Host Clarksville Northeast held off McGavock 42-39, eliminating the other Nashville AAA hope.
• Maplewood trounced Spring Hill 70-49 as the Panthers qualified for state in the AA sectionals game at Whites Creek. Marshall County ended M.L. King’s AA season with a 47-36 win in Lewisburg.