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Mark of a Winner

Eldridge, Rebels, battled-tested for what promises fierce 4AAA tourney

_84A0066Maryville’s Isaac Edmiston skies for the basket ahead of Alcoa’s Peyton Wall on Friday. Photos by Jolanda Jansma


By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

It was a little thing, one that likely made all the difference in a cliffhanger Maryville win Friday night at Alcoa.

Alcoa's Brenden Teeter goes for the block against T.D. Blackmon.

Alcoa’s Brenden Teeter goes for the block against T.D. Blackmon.

The Rebels led by three with 15 seconds remaining, the Tornadoes with the ball in frontcourt after a timeout.

The safe bet had Maryville in a zone.

A layup would do Alcoa little good.

Rebel coach Mark Eldridge knew that – and capitalized.

“As soon as the ball came in, we went man,” he said. “I think that effected (the Tornadoes) and made them waste some time.”

Fifteen seconds later, after a hurried Alcoa 3-point try with time expiring, the Rebels left the Tornado gym with a 58-55 win and a much-needed boost entering postseason.

“You just take a gamble, and it worked out,” Eldridge said.

This week’s District 4AAA tournament at Farragut promises much the same late-game drama, what with Hardin Valley (17-9, 11-3), Maryville (21-7, 11-3) and Bearden (19-8, 11-3 4AAA) finishing the regular season in a three-way tie at the top. Farragut (9-15, 7-7) will also sit the first day.

The 5 through 8 seeds – West (7-18, 5-9), William Blount (16-14, 5-9), Heritage (14-14, 4-10) and Lenoir City (6-21, 2-12) – are not to be taken lightly. The Governors, with all-district guard Austin Haworth directing things, are really starting to put it together and the Mountaineers, paced by all-district forward Hunter Bailey, have state’s seventh-best scoring defense.

Senior Grant Wilson was a third all-district selection for the Rebels.

John Garrett looks to make the entry pass against Alcoa's Malik Love.

John Garrett looks to make the entry pass against Alcoa’s Malik Love.

“It’s going to be fun,” Eldridge said.

Lenoir City and West open the boys’ tournament on Tuesday at 6, with Heritage and William Blount following at 7:30 in the second of two elimination games. The winners advance to meet Farragut and Bearden, respectively, on Thursday.

The Hawks and Rebels, by virtue of their region-qualifying Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, await the survivors in Friday’s semifinals at 7:30 and 9.

The boys’ tournament consolation and finals are scheduled for Tuesday at 6 and 7:30.

Rebel all-district big man Isaac Edmiston, rolling tightly off screens, riddled Alcoa for five first-half 3-pointers en route to a game-high 25 points. All-district point guard John Garrett, 16 points, and forward Bryce Miller, 11, carried Maryville to the finish line down the stretch.

“My teammates trust me to have the ball in my hands in the fourth quarter,” Garrett said.

It proved enough to fend off a loud charge from the Tornadoes, who saw Nick Miller fire in 13 points on the strength of three treys. Fellow senior Peyton Wall had eight and hit twice from the arc, the combined barrage a big part of the reason Eldridge’s late-game gambit proved so effective.

Junior center Brenden Teeter, 18 points, and guard Malik Love, 14, powered Alcoa in the second half, their play at the basket doing much to free Wall for two fourth-quarter 3s that made the closing minutes a barnburner.

Andrew Petree (5) goes for the tip-in against Teeter.

Andrew Petree (5) goes for the tip-in against Teeter.

Malik Love gets to the rim.

Malik Love gets to the rim.

As is likely to be the case this week at Farragut, the Rebels found the hot hand at just the right time, junior Bryce Miller filling the role with a couple of buckets inside, sandwiched around a big basket from Garrett from the head of the circle to tie things at 50-all at the five-minute mark.

Inside the final minute, Garrett held the lead with 4-for-4 shooting from the free-throw line.

“We know John is our floor leader,” Eldridge said. “We want the ball in his hands because he makes great decisions.”

Going to man, when everyone in the building is thinking zone, was nice, too.

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