Montgomery Bell Academy is a big fan of that “third time’s a charm’’ saying. Or certainly another one – “it’s hard to beat a good team three times.’’
The Big Red will accept either one, because they figured as truisms in an 84-80 win over big rival Ensworth in the state DII-AA semifinals at Lipscomb Allen Arena Friday afternoon. Ensworth had squeezed out two wins over the Big Red during the season, both by three points.
MBA will meet Memphis Christian Brothers in the final Saturday at 5 p.m. which is their second meeting of the season. The Big Red lost to the Wave 61-48 Dec. 12. Christian Brothers beat McCallie 58-55 in the other semis.
Mr. Basketball finalist Holden Mobley poured in 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Big Red caught fire in the fourth quarter after trailing by nine early on in a game where both student bodies were on fire in their respective end zones.
Trailing by three to start the final quarter, MBA finally took the lead when Luke Colbert hit two free throws for a 65-64 lead. Then David Howard’s hoop and a big three by Tyler Paslick gave the Big Red the lead for good 70-66, sparking a 27-point final quarter.
Mobley missed four of his first six free throws but wound up hitting 9-of-14 for the game as the Big Red hit a torrent of 37-of-59 freebies, including 12-of-14 in the final 3:34.
“I was missing them early, but I tried to hold my composure,’’ Mobley said. “”We talked the whole week about maintaining our composure. No matter if we got behind, we wanted to finish strong.’’
Sophomore post player David Howard scored nine of his 19 points in the final 5:55, including 7-of-8 free throws and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds for MBA (23-5).
Austin Blackwell added 13 for MBA.
“We wanted to establish an inside presence, and their (Ensworth) inside guys are a tough matchup,’’ Howard said. “I wanted to stay aggressive. Once we do that, we have some great shooters from the outside.’’
Ensworth did hold a 49-43 rebound edge, but the Tigers hit only 1-of-22 from the three-point line, a key stat in their downfall.
“When you shoot 1-of-22 from three and the other team shoots 59 free throws, it’s tough to win sometimes,’’ said Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers.
Center Daniel McFadden score 27 points for Ensworth, which almost reached its season average of 86 points a game. But the Tigers (23-4) couldn’t slow down MBA.
“When we finally caught up, it seemed to give us a life, then we got to the free throw line a lot where we were able to maintain the lead,’’ said Coach Kevin Anglin.
“When you shoot 1-of-22 from three, it’s hard to win that way,’’ McFadden said. “The three has carried us much of the year, today (Friday) it let us down.’’
As the game wound down, the MBA students began shouting “Just like football,’’ in a taunting way, in reference to MBA’s state quarterfinal upset of the Tigers in November.
Anglin, who was state tournament MVP of Franklin High’s win over Whites Creek in the 1989 finals, noted there were some similarities between the two teams.
“There were the intangibles, guys really liking each other on and off the court,’’ Anglin said. “The two teams were slightly different, but there was a lot of team chemistry with both teams.’’
Ensworth rolls past St. Benedict
Ensworth rolled past St. Benedict 71-51 in the first girls semifinal as Miss Basketball finalist Marie Carpenter led four Tiger players in double figures with 16 points, to go with two assists Friday.
Ensworth will meet Briarcrest in the final at 3 p.m. Saturday after Briarcrest beat Pope JPII 54-45 in the semis, despite 20 points and 11 rebounds by the Knights’ Miss Basketball finalist Paige Baechl.
" As a senior this is very exciting, and I hope we can play well in the finals,’’ said Carpenter, who along with fellow senior Jamie Allsmiller, have won state (’08) and finished as finalists (’09) the past two years.
Ensworth, which beat St. Benedict in an ugly 33-22 game early, was downright beautiful in the semis game Friday. The Tigers hit 51 percent from the field and out-rebounded St. Benedict 39-29 as they upped their record to 24-4.
Allsmiller hit five threes, including three in a row in the first half, to help the Tigers jump to a 35-15 halftime lead.
“I know if I can hit a few of those from the outside, it opens up things for our inside game,’’ Carpenter said.
Christina Slay, sister of former Pearl-Cohn and UT player Ron Slay, added 13 points, and Paige Parker added 10.
“We’ve played extremely well since we got off to a 3-3 start,’’ said Coach Hubie Smith whose team has won 14 straight. “Since then, we haven’t lost to anyone in a game where we were at full strength. The only games we’ve lost is when we had a starter or two out with injury or illness.’’