Sumiton Christian's Jeremy Brown, right, shoots against Tanner during their game at the Northwest Regional Tournament at Wallace State-Hanceville. Tanner won the game 51-46.
Daily Mountain Eagle - Jeff Johnsey
By JAMES PHILLIPS, Daily Mountain Eagle
HANCEVILLE — Sumiton Christian fell just short of an upset win in their Class 2A semifinal matchup at the Northwest Regional Tournament at Wallace State-Hanceville on Friday night, falling to No. 4 Tanner 51-46.
The Eagles (22-8) trailed by 11 points entering the fourth quarter, but a 10-0 run led by Josh Marshall cut the Tanner lead to 39-38 with 5:01 left in the game. Down the stretch, Sumiton Christian got as close as two points, but could never get over the hump.
Trailing 49-46, the Eagles had one last chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but Tanner’s Jaquan Thompson stole a Sumiton Christian pass and took it the distance for a layup at the buzzer.
“The kids didn’t quit,” Sumiton Christian Coach Bill Griffin said. “They could be down by 20 points, and we might lose by 20, but they would never quit during a game. That’s just the type of guys that they are. I’m proud of what they have accomplished this season. It is a team full of juniors and seniors who have played in our program for a long time now.”
The win moves Tanner (26-6) into the Northwest Regional Tournament final where they will play Vincent on Tuesday.
“This was an ugly game for us,” Tanner Coach Chris Whitt said. “You’ve got to credit Sumiton Christian for how tough they played. We’ve been really clicking here at the end of the season, and that was now how we played tonight.”
Malik Atkins led the Rattlers with 22 points and eight rebounds. J.J. Jones had 12 points and six rebounds.
“Their post guys were big and athletic, and that caused us some problems,” Griffin said. “Tanner has a good basketball team. They are very similar to the Vincent team we played three times this season. That should be a good game in the regional final.”
Sumiton Christian was led by Jeremy Brown with 13 points and four rebounds, Judson Laird had 12 points, Josh Marshall added eight points and three steals and Isaiah Wright had six points and four rebounds.
Two long scoring droughts saw the Eagles fall behind by eight points in the first half and 11 points in the second half. Both times Sumiton Christian fought back.
After trailing 15-11 at the end of the first quarter, the Eagles outscored the Rattlers 10-6 in the second quarter to tie the game 21-21 at the half.
Atkins scored 11 points in the third quarter, helping Tanner outscore the Eagles 18-7 in the period.
Trailing 39-28, Marshall had seven points in the Eagles' 10-0 run to open the fourth quarter.
He started the spurt with a steal and a score, Brown added a basket and Marshall followed with three free throws and a layup to cut the gap to a single point.
Jones’ three-point play pushed Tanner’s lead back to six points later in the quarter, but the Eagles got as close as two points, 47-45, at the 1:36 mark after back-to-back baskets from Wright.
With 16 seconds left, a free throw by Brown proved to be Sumiton Christian’s last point as the Eagles again drew within two points, 48-46. Tanner closed the game with a free throw and the game-sealing layup.
“Nobody thought we could make it this far,” Laird said. “I’m glad we could prove them wrong. Our team worked hard this season. I’m proud of my teammate and I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish."