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Born To Run

Alcoa outlasts Carpenters in fast-paced championship game
An unceasing tempo carried the Alcoa Middle Tornadoes to the Blount County championship Tuesday night at Carpenters. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

The pace was absolutely and completely relentless.

Alcoa's Joseph Headrick wheels into the lane as Carpenters' Jordan Tarver defends.

Alcoa’s Joseph Headrick wheels into the lane as Carpenters’ Jordan Tarver defends.

The Alcoa and Carpenters middle boys’ basketball teams went at it end to end with no let up for four quarters Tuesday.

You were exhausted just watching them.

An 8-0 Alcoa run midway through the fourth opened just enough breathing room, and the Tornadoes turned back the Cougars, 47-38, in the championship game of the East Tennessee Area 3 Tournament at Carpenters Middle.

“I told you they (the Cougars) were good,” Alcoa coach Dyron Bledsoe said. “We weren’t strong in the post early, and they were shooting layups. Carpenters is a good team. They rebound and get after it. They adjust to you. You just have to keep fighting.”

The Blount County champion Tornadoes (22-3), along with the runner-up Cougars and third-place Union Grove, advance to the Tennessee Middle School Athletic Association regional tournament next week at Sevierville Middle.

Tuesday’s frenetic tempo saw three Tornadoes reach double figures, led by 16 from super-quick point guard Mykel Ail, who ripped the netting three times from 3-point range.

Walker Russell followed with 12 for Alcoa, including a trey, Nick Roberts 10. Joseph Headrick had six, Jalen Carter three.

Carpenters got a game-high 21 from Jordan Tarver, including a trey. You’re going to be hearing a lot about this kid.

Will Combs gets to the basket for the Cougars as the Tornadoes' Mykel Ail closes.

Will Combs gets to the basket for the Cougars as the Tornadoes’ Mykel Ail closes.

Will Combs had eight for the Cougars, Max Bowers six, Ryan Ballard two and Corey Shaffer a single tally from the free-throw line.

Carpenters opened spoiling for battle, taking a 10-8 lead after a quarter of play. The Cougars held onto the lead by a 21-18 margin at the half. While an Alcoa surge in the third reversed things, it wasn’t by much, the Tornadoes moving to the front at the final turn, 28-26.

“We struggled a little in the second half with rebounding,” Carpenters coach K.C. Haworth said. “They’ve got a lot of guys with size and they got after it on the boards.

“They (the Cougars) were prepared. They were ready to go. They got after it. I’m proud of them.”

Holding a 34-26 lead with four minutes left, Alcoa seemingly put it away with an 8-2 run. Russell began the burst with a tip in. Roberts and Russell then hit for back-to-back 3-pointers, the Tornadoes extending to a 40-28 margin with three minutes to play.

“I’m used to (shooting the 3) playing around,” Russell said. “I figured I might as well do it in a game.”


Not these two.

Carpenters tore back to force Alcoa to the line inside the last minute.

A deep 3 from Combs made things interesting with 31 seconds left, pulling the Cougars within 43-38.

Six of 11 from the free-throw line down the stretch proved enough to keep the Tornadoes clear.

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