Brainerd led by as much as 19 points early in the first of Saturday’s match up with rival Tyner, but the Panthers had to play all 32 minutes to capture a victory in their District 6-AA semifinal at Hixson High School.
Rams senior Jemicah Bowman let loose a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds, but the 5-11 senior’s shot rimmed out, and Brainerd held on for a 66-63 victory, advancing to Tuesday’s title game against top-seeded Howard.
“One thing about my team is they are going to fight hard,” Harris said. “They may do some things wrong, but they fight hard.”
Tyner, which trailed the entire way, had to fight from the opening tip, falling behind 20-6 after one quarter.
“I think we caught them kind of flat,” Brainerd coach Robert High said. “We came out in the press, and I don’t think they expected us to press them. We know they've got a lot of quickness, but we did a good job with our press."
Harris and his team weren’t too discouraged, though.
After all, it had come behind to beat Brainerd before.
“We were down 10 in the second (regular-season) game against Brainerd, and we came back and won the game,” said Harris, referring to the Rams’ 60-46 win over the Panthers on Jan. 19. “14 really wasn’t anything. I just told the guys ‘we’ve been here before.’”
Tyner (18-7), which trailed by 13 entering the final period, chipped away at its deficit, eventually trimming it to one score, but the Rams couldn’t come up with the one crucial bucket.
Brainerd’s Devonte Cooper led all scorers with 20 points, teammate Tyree Stubbs added 13 and Jay Besley also finished in double-figures with 10.
“I think they were more prepared than we were,” Harris said. “I thought Brainerd played good and hit some good shots in the first half.”
Sadik Spence scored 18 points to lead the Rams, while post players Bristen Bridgeman and Alex Watson combined for 21.
Tuesday’s title game between Brainerd and Howard is set for 7:45 p.m., while Tyner will take on fifth-seeded Central in Monday evening’s consolation game (7:45).
District 6-AA Tournament
No. 1 Howard 72, No. 8 Red Bank 52
No. 2 Tyner 78, No. 7 Hixson 45*
No. 3 Brainerd 63, No. 6 East Ridge 54
No. 5 Central 57, No. 4 East Hamilton 42
No. 1 Howard 77, No. 5 Central 41
No. 3 Brainerd 66, No. 2 Tyner 63
Consolation Game • Monday, 7:45 p.m.
No. 2 Tyner vs. No. 5 Central
Championship • Tuesday, 7:45 p.m.
No. 1 Howard vs. No. 3 Brainerd