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Manhattan Project Revisited

Super-fast start carries Oak Ridge to region title
Bryan Landers puts up a shot in traffic during Thursday’s region championship game. Photos by Hobe Brunson

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Oak Ridge – If Y-12 is missing any of the stuff, check the Oak Ridge locker room.

T.J. Kimble sails through the Oak Ridge defense for two.

The Wildcats couldn’t have opened any hotter.

It was 16-0 Oak Ridge before Maryville scored for the first time, and it didn’t get a whole lot better the rest of the way in a 71-54 win for the Wildcats in the Region 2AAA championship game Thursday night.

Maryville coach Mark Eldridge directs the Rebels on Thursday.

The loss sends the Rebels back to Science Hill for Monday night’s sectional round. The Hilltoppers ended the season for Maryville a year ago at this same point. Rebel coach Mark Eldridge prefers to look a little farther back.

In 2007, Maryville went to Johnson City and stunned Science Hill en route to the school’s lone state basketball title.

Sick the night before, Maryville big man Clark McCall tried to play Thursday, making the trip to Oak Ridge with the Rebels. Minutes before the game, Eldridge said he realized his top scorer and leading rebounder couldn’t go.

“When you find out one of your starters isn’t going to play 15 minutes before the game, it changes what you want to do,” he said. “Give them (the Wildcats) credit. They came out and shot it well, and they were at home.”

It’s difficult to know if McCall’s presence would have changed things. Oak Ridge was just that hot, Rebel guard T.J. Kimble said.

Rebel guard John Garrett breaks down the Wildcat defense on the drive.

“They started off hitting shots. They had the momentum,” he said. “I got blocked, and it got their fans into it. It just knocked us back a bit. I don’t know if that (McCall’s absence) changed the way we were going to play, but he’s huge for us.”

It was 22-9 Wildcats after a quarter. Kimble, 20 points, and forward Bryan Landers, 14, began to chip away for the Rebels. Just how damaging the start for Oak Ridge had been is best reflected by an 18-17 Maryville advantage in the second quarter.

“I told (the Rebels) to continue to do what we do,” Eldridge said. “They’re not going to make every shot. They’re going to miss some.”

Five Wildcats reached double figures, led by Rian Hall’s 16 and 15 on four treys from Cory Fagan. Isaac Merian had 12, Jaylin Henderson and Rashad Gray 11 each.

Landers got some of what Oak Ridge had to start the second half, and the Rebels got close enough to make a run late in the third. Back-to-back 3s from Landers and a three-point play the old-fashioned way from Kimble trimmed the Wildcat lead to 48-41 with two minutes to go in the third.

Moments later, Kimble got a good look at a 3.

“If he makes that shot and cuts it to four, who knows,” Eldridge said.

Hall knifed down the lane with two seconds in the period to give the Wildcats a 52-41 lead to start the fourth, and Oak Ridge took off again.

A Rebel scoring drought the first three minutes of the fourth helped the Wildcats quickly put the lead back at 16, capped with a finishing flourish.





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