The boys' high school basketball coaching matchup Thursday at Grace Academy was between former District 5-A counterparts Jon Mattheiss and McCallie's Dan Wadley, formerly of now-closed Tennessee Temple. Although the Golden Eagles didn't always win those battles, Mattheiss may have wished his troops were going up against one of Wadley's Temple teams.
Instead, Grace proved to be no match for the Division II-AA powerhouse Blue Tornado, who handily disposed of the Golden Eagles 87-38.
McCallie came in off a 55-52 home loss against East/Middle Region opponent Battle Ground Academy. That was its first loss in now 16 games.
Wadley said a team meeting took place afterward, followed by a few good practices. The Blue Tornado led 29-10 at the end of the first quarter Thursday.
"I thought our kids responded well to the loss Saturday," Wadley said. "They came in focused."
After increasing that lead to 27 points by halftime, McCallie came out and scored the first 10 points of the second half. Wadley pulled his starters for good at 4:22 of the third quarter.
The Blue Tornado made 39 field goals to 15 for the Golden Eagles, whose only player with more than six points was Corey Nelson with 15. Grace's lone score in the third quarter, which ended with McCallie leading 69-27, was a free throw by Austin Powell with 35.9 seconds to go.
"I thought we played very good team ball and shared the ball," Wadley said. "We did what we do best, and that's run and play defense."
Thirteen played for the Blue Tornado and 12 scored, led by Cordell James. He made five 3-point shots and scored 21 points, all in the first half. Terrance O'Donohue had 15 and Jamal Calvin scored 13.
Mattheiss said he was most displeased by his team's lack of doing fundamental things, like boxing out on rebounds and making good passes. Grace (8-7) hosts Lookout Valley tonight in a rematch of its only loss to a fellow Class A team, and that was on a buzzer-beater at Lookout Valley.
"A couple of years ago we played in the Best of Preps tournament and Tyner beat us by 50, but we ended up going to the state championship," Mattheiss said of the Golden Eagles' 100-53 loss to the Rams on Dec. 21, 2008.
"The last thing I left them with tonight was 'We've got 24 hours until we play again. Let's see how you react to this. Are you going to go home and play Xbox? Or are you going to go home and think about the game and what you can do better tomorrow night?' This could be the beginning of the end, or it could be a great turnaround to our season."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.