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Watertown, Wilson Central reach region finals
Feb 28, 2013 3:30 pm
Tigers reach new territory by holding off Jackson County
By Andy Reed
WATERTOWN — There can't be very many fingernails left among the basketball faithful in Watertown.
For the second time in four nights, their Purple Tigers had them gnawing at their fingers as their heroes eked out a two-point Region 4-A victory.
This time, it was a 56-54 cliffhanger over Jackson County which sent the Tigers into uncharted territory.
It's the first time a Watertown team - boys or girls - has reached a region final and sectional in the modern era. Public announcer Ken Fountain, who has spent years researching sports history in Wilson County, said the 1934 Tigers lost to College Grove in the finals of what were then called sectionals, which he believes were the equivalent to today's region.
And for the first time, Watertown will play in the modern TSSAA sectional [commonly known as the substate] at 7 p.m. Monday. If the 28-3 Tigers can beat Clarkrange in Thursday's 7 p.m. region final, they will be at home Monday while a loss would send them to the Chattanooga area in search of their first State Tournament trip.
"That's a lot," said Bradshaw, who coached in the sectional as a Lebanon assistant and Friendship Christian head coach. "I told the guys, 'That was a 102-year-old monkey you just pulled off the back'.
"And this program needed it. These kids have worked hard. The school and community have been great this year as far as backing us, the support that we got... They have come and packed our gym every night. The community has embraced this basketball team."
The game appeared to be a blowout as Watertown jumped to a 12-0 lead. But the Blue Devils, with their length giving the Tigers trouble, began finding the range and began chipping their way back into the game.
Their break came midway through the third quarter when Watertown point guard Macieo Gaines picked up his third and fourth fouls in short order, forcing Bradshaw to space his floor general the rest of the way.
"We were in a tough spot at that point," Bradshaw said. "We were in trouble just from the standpoint he's our chief ballhandler. He takes care of the basketball well. He's a great free-throw shooter. We lost a lot of experience when we had to sit him on the bench.
"They jumped into a press. I was glad we had a lead. We gave up some cheap baskets down the stretch.
"But I am super proud of these guys. They have worked super hard the last year. They got to that region semi game [last year] and didn't play well, shot the ball bad. Tonight, we came out ready to play. We knew a little storm was coming."
Jackson County had a golden opportunity to capsize the Tigers' ship when a Jordan Allen steal was followed by a one-and-one with just under a minute left with Watertown clinging to a 50-49 edge.
But Conner Hall missed the front end and Allen fouled out on the rebound by Ty Jobe, who sank two free throws for a three-point lead.
Jackson County wasn't done yet as a three-pointer by Jonathan Brown brought the Blue Devils to within 55-54 with 11.6 seconds left.
After a timeout with 9.5 left, Josiah Smith was attempting to dribble the remaining time away in the backcourt where he was intentionally fouled with 2.9 ticks left. The senior guard sank one of two free throws and the Tigers had their historic victory.
Smith sank three 3-pointers in leading Watertown with 19 points while Jobe finished with 14, Gaines eight, Moss and Nick Sackman four each, Jake Belcher three free throws and Ben Bain and Zach Edwards two apiece.
Brent Davidson dropped in 20 points and Peyton Ragland 14 as the Blue Devils finished a 13-18 season.
"They take those tall guys and spread them out and it does give us some matchup trouble," Bradshaw said. "They kept hitting shots to keep themselves in the ballgame."
Now, the Tigers will turn their attention to Clarkrange, which upset Clay County 36-32 in Tuesday's first game. The Buffaloes don't get the recognition their well-renowned girls' program receives, but they have wreaked a lot of havoc on teams with much better records over the years. They beat Bradshaw's Commanders in the semis several years ago and knocked off his Purple Tigers last year.
"They do a good job in that matchup 2-3," Bradshaw said of the Buffs. "They give you shots. Clay had any open three they wanted to hit tonight and just couldn't throw it in the ocean."
Central uses big second-half run to overtake Hendersonville
HENDERSONVILLE — Wilson Central was in some trouble when the Wildcats found themselves down by eight points during the third quarter of Tuesday's Region 5-AAA semifinal against Hendersonville at Beech.
But the Wildcats roared back to take a 61-56 triumph to return to the region final.
Central used a 29-10 run after trailing 35-27. Blake Huffman's two-hand jam sealed the win for the Wildcats, who climbed to 24-8 and into Thursday's 7 p.m. final against Dickson County, which ousted Henry Count 81-60 earlier in the evening.
"Our kids really showed a lot of character," said Central coach Troy Bond, whose Wildcats finished second in the region last year but reached the State Tournament from a road sectional win. "We had that never-say-die attitude. We challenged our kids not to give up.
"Our kids just found a way to win. Our kids found an extra gear tonight. We made some big plays at crucial times."
Huffman led Central's balanced scoring attack with 14 points while big man Ben Palmer picked up 12 and guard Jacob Williams 10, including a pair of three-pointers, with 11 rebounds. Jon Rosshirt racked up nine points and four steals while Deante Miller supplied seven points, Matthew Hall six and Casey Brandon three.
Jacob McCullough poured in five three-pointers to lead Hendersonville with 20 points while John Davis dropped in 13 for the Commandos, who won both regular-season meetings with Central and took the District 9-AAA tournament's top seed.
Central led 10-9 following the first quarter but trailed 25-20 by halftime.