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The Finisher

Simpson super in final minute as Tornadoes rally for title
Jordin Harris finishes the break at the Blount County Elementary Basketball Tournament. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Alcoa kept it simple when it got down to winning time: Get it to the big guy.

Ethan Simpson eyes the rim at the foul line.

Ethan Simpson eyes the rim at the foul line.

Ethan Simpson responded with a clutch final 73 seconds, and the Tornadoes nipped Montgomery Ridge, 32-29, in the American Conference championship game of the Blount County Elementary Basketball on Monday at Heritage Middle.

After a game-long chase, Alcoa (11-1) took its first lead on a bucket from Quindarius Salter from the right side with two minutes remaining. Daniel Hughes answered quickly for the Eagles, first with a basket just off the key. A free throw from Hughes put Montgomery Ridge back out front, 29-28, with 1:32 to play.

A seeming easy-going kid from courtside, Simpson got the Tornadoes the lead for good with a layup in heavy traffic at the 1:13 mark. No fist pumping. No shouting. The Tornado center simply ran to the other end, where he finished things.

A blocked shot was followed by a steal on the same possession. Simpson then put back an Alcoa miss for the final margin with half a minute to play.

“In the fourth quarter, I told them it was a brand new ball game,” Alcoa coach Brad McBride said. “‘Give me all you’ve got.’”

If Simpson was the finisher for the Tornadoes, it was Salter’s hot shooting in the fourth quarter that got them there.

Simpson’s strong finish put him atop the score sheet with a game-high 12 points, but Salter pumped a string of jumpers from the right side as Alcoa gave chase, finishing just back of Simpson with 10 points.

Kid’s got a sweet jumper for someone so young.

Jonathan Clark had six for the Tornadoes, Isaiah Bryant and Jordin Harris two each.

A strong finish lifted the Tornadoes to the title.

A strong finish lifted the Tornadoes to the title.

Hughes was clutch for the Eagles (11-1) throughout, finishing with 11 points. Eyden Greer and Charlie Rice pumped in eight and seven points, respectively, for Montgomery Ridge. Riley Orr had two, Jameson Ludly a toss from the foul line.

A close game was expected with the Tornadoes and Eagles having split the season series. Rice and Greer opened strong for the Eagles, and Montgomery Ridge led 7-4 after a quarter. It was 10-all at the half.

“We talked before the game how if we played 10 times, we’d both win five,” Montgomery Ridge coach Bartley McMurray said,

Rice hit a 3-pointer. Greer hit for six more points inside, with Hughes adding four. A 14-point third quarter lifted the Eagles to a 24-16 advantage to start the fourth.

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