published Friday, December 20th, 2013

Defense highlights Rams' win over Brainerd

  • photo
    Brainerd's Windell Graham (22) tries to drive around Tyner's Rodney Watson (3) at Tyner Academy High School on Thursday.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
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Tyner basketball coach Gerald Harris wasn't going to be picky about how his team claimed a 22-point victory over Brainerd on Thursday despite 22 turnovers and 14 missed free throws. The stats would suggest that it wasn't pretty -- and it wasn't -- but to most coaches, there's really nothing ugly about a win.

The Rams' 59-37 District 6-AA victory was spurred by a defensive effort that shut down Brainerd in the second and fourth quarters, and the three-headed scoring attack of Sadik Spence, Daaron Maston and Rodney Watson, who combined for 42 points.

"It was a tough win, but I'll take it however I can get it," Harris said. "I think that with the crowd and all the build-up to the game, it wasn't as pretty as I would have liked, but we did what we do best."

That was limit Brainerd to 10 points in the latter quarter of each half. Brainerd, which was riddled with foul trouble to key players all game, jumped out to a six-point lead, but the Rams ralled with a 12-0 run and led by four after a quarter. They built that lead to eight points at halftime, then stretched that lead to double digits after three quarters, highlighted by a 30-foot fallaway heave by Spence that banged in at the third-quarter buzzer to make it 47-34.

The Panthers scored their final field goal on a layup by Da'V Moore with 7:17 left in the game. Tyner (6-0, 4-0) outscored them 12-1 the rest of the way.

"I think that the fact we held them to three points in the fourth quarter says a lot about our intensity," Harris said. "We had a team effort tonight. I knew for us to win that we'd have to play good defense and be poised, and after that early run Brainerd had, I thought we were solid. We didn't panic."

The Panthers (10-2, 3-1) were led by Orlando Moore's 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. One of their biggest scoring threats, Marques Tipton, spent most of the game in foul trouble before fouling out about two minutes into the fourth quarter, while Da'V Moore and Demarcus Otis also fouled out. The team was whistled for 27 fouls, eight more than the Rams, and also hurt themselves by going 10-for-21 at the foul line.

The teams will play again on Feb. 8 -- the week before the district tournament begins.

"We need to get hit in the mouth," Brainerd coach Levar Brown said. "We knew it was going to be a tough environment and we were going against a well-coached team. We know we'll see them again, and when that time comes, we'll be ready to go."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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