MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Both teams were making their first appearance in the state tournament in more than 20 years, but only Memphis Central will continue playing for at least one more day. Continuing their late-season hot streak, the Warriors never trailed in beating Ooltewah 67-54 in the Class AAA boys' state basketball tournament quarterfinals at Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center.
Memphis Central connected on better than 50 percent of its field goals for the game, while Ooltewah was hampered by early foul trouble for two of its starters and struggled to connect from the outside, making just 4 of 27 3-point attempts.
"Because of their size, those outside shots were the best looks we were getting," Owls coach Jesse Nayadley said, referring to Central's front line of 6-foot-6 Frank Herron, 6-6 D'airrius Sorrell and 6-4 Joshua Jones. "Their long arms and pressure really didn't allow us to get much out there. It's been a long time since we shot it that poorly."
After Central scored the game's first six points, Ooltewah battled back to eventually tie the game at 24, but never led. Central answered with a 9-0 run just before halftime and the Owls never got closer than six after that.
"If we get open looks, we're taking the shot, that's how we played all year," Owls senior Jervon Johnson said. "The shots just didn't fall tonight."
Owls' starting post Mikhail Creech sat out the entire second quarter with two fouls and was called for his third personal just 1:20 into the third quarter and fouled out midway through the fourth. Andre Moton, the Owls' second-leading scorer, was called for his fourth foul late in the third and fouled out in the opening minutes of the fourth.
"Aside from the way we shot it from the outside, fouls killed us," Nayadley said. "It was a very physical game, but it seemed like all the calls went against us. Without Mikhail out there we can't beat that team. The few minutes he was on the floor, I thought he was the best athlete in the game. He just wasn't out there enough."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...