Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press/ Feb 11, 2011 - McCallie's Cordell James (40) drives around Father Ryan's Matt Rovillier (24) in first half action Friday at McCallie. McCallie led 15-9 at the half.
McCallie has gained its notoriety this basketball season as a fast-paced, offensive team.
Tested by a slow-paced Father Ryan squad Friday night, the Blue Tornado showed they can get the job done defensively as well.
Chad Lee matched Father Ryan's first-half output with nine points, and Cordell James outdid the Irish's 16 points with 19 of his own in the second half as 10th-ranked McCallie won 48-25 at home. The Tornado earned at least the East/Middle Region's second seed for the upcoming Division II-AA state tournament.
McCallie (17-5, 6-1) now will have to play the waiting game. Current top region seed Ensworth has games remaining Tuesday and Wednesday against Brentwood Academy and Battle Ground Academy. If it loses either, Ensworth would have to face McCallie in a one-game playoff for top seeding.
But the Tornado had to get past the Irish first, and it wasn't easy from a patience standpoint. Second-ranked Father Ryan (15-6, 7-4) held the ball for a minute and a half. The deliberate pace was meant to slow McCallie's preferred pace, and the result was a 6-5 Tornado lead after a quarter.
"We had to be mentally prepared on defense," Lee said. "We knew they were going to slow down the pace and we were going to have to play defense for 45 seconds to a minute."
Lee had seven of McCallie's nine points in the second period, which finished with the Tornado ahead 14-9.
"We fell into the trap in the first half," McCallie coach Dan Wadley said. "They're good at what they do: They get teams to play their style, and in the first half we did.
"They're used to teams breaking down against them."
The Irish stayed within six points in the first three minutes of the third quarter, but James got hot, connecting on 13 straight points in the third and fourth quarters as McCallie stretched a 19-13 lead with 3:57 remaining to 34-17 with 6:07 to go.
"I'm proud of not just our patience tonight, but our defense," Wadley said. "I don't think we get enough credit as a fast-paced team."
Lee finished with 11 points, while C.J. Reese had 10.
"In the last four games, we've been hot," Lee said. "At this point I don't think anybody can guard us; I feel good about our chances the rest of the way."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports.