University School-Nashville plays on, advances without top player

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 11:57am

Playing without its leading scorer, University School of Nashville nonetheless made itself right at home in the Overton Christmas tournament.

The Tigers (10-2) roared to a 59-47 win over Springfield High on Tuesday afternoon and advanced to Wednesday's semifinals.

They did so without Nilan Hodge, a DII Mr. Basketball finalist last season. Last week, Hodge was taken out of school and off the team for family reasons. He was averaging about 20 points a game and one of the city's leading 3-point shooters.

"It's a discipline situation, that's really about all I know about it,” coach Adam Sonn said. "Certainly, it takes quite a bit out of our lineup. But everyone else stepped up and gave a little extra, and that's what it took.”

Junior guard Liam Nash was one who assumed a bigger role. He scored 11 points in the final quarter and finished with a game-high 27 points. Nash went 6-of-6 on free throws in the final three minutes to hold off the Yellow Jackets.

"I just had to step up and show up,” Nash said. "It's a tough situation, playing without Nilan, but it makes all of us up our games, play even better than before.

"I just knew if we were going to win, I was going to have to make plays, hit free throws.”

He scored 16 in the second half.

Senior wing Ross Welch added 10 points and James Douglas scored eight.

Sonn said Welch is deciding between Birmingham Southern and Sewanee for college.

USN jumped to an early 15-3, led 31-17 at the half, then held off the scrappy Jackets, who closed to within six points late.

"That was one of Liam's better games, he was ice down the stretch,” said Sonn, who has taken his three previous USN teams to the state final four (2009), state finals (2010) and quarterfinals the past March. "Our only losses have been to MBA, a really good team, and to John Paul II, also a good team but it was a game I think we could have played much better.”

USN faces powerful Memphis Raleigh-Egypt, which crushed Glencliff 77-32 in its opener, in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Two-time defending champion and host Overton cruised past Harpeth 58-40. The Bobcats (6-6) improved 9-0 in this tournament over the past three seasons.

Will Jennings and Geremy Henderson each scored 14 points, and Ivan Alsup and Shaquille Davis added 13 and 12 for the remarkably balanced Bobcats.

"That's the way we have to play in order to win,” James McKee, Overton's fourth-year coach, said. "We're a young team that's very eager and that's the key to any success we'll have.

“We lost a lot through graduation, but I really like this group of guys.”

In earlier games, Hillsboro's girls crushed Maplewood 60-14 as junior Nicole Bowers personally outscored the Panthers with 15 points. The Burros will play neighborhood foe Ryan in the 4 p.m. semis after the Irish stopped Hume-Fogg 46-22.

Harpeth edged the USN girls 47-41. In the finale Tuesday, BGA tripped Whites Creek's boys 70-48.

Finals are Thursday night at 7 (girls) and 8:30 (boys) p.m.

Wednesday's schedule
(at Overton High)

10 a.m.-- Maplewood-HumeFogg, girls consolation semis;11:30 a.m.--
Whites Creek-Harpeth, boys cons. semis;1 p.m.-- USN-Whites Creek, girls
losers semis; 2:30-- Springfield-Glencliff, boys cons, semis; 4 p.m.--
Hillsboro-Ryan, girls semis; 5:30-- BGA-Overton, boys semis; 7 p.m.--
Harpeth-Overton, girls semis; 8:30-- USN-RaleighEgypt, boys semis.