Halftime couldn't have come at a better time for Boyd-Buchanan in its Region 3-A high school basketball boys' quarterfinal Saturday on the Buccaneers' court.
Sale Creek was chipping away at the substantial lead the Bucs had built when the break came. But a refocused home team returned in the second half, reclaimed control and defeated the Panthers 76-53.
Boyd-Buchanan (23-7) will play in a semifinal Tuesday at Sale Creek against Arts & Sciences, which won 74-73 at Van Buren County on Saturday. Sale Creek ended its season 15-11.
The Bucs opened with a 26-point first quarter with a 10-0 run over one two-minute stretch. Then after Justus McMillan's 3-pointer from the left corner and a layup by Q.D. Cox to start the second-quarter scoring, Boyd-Buchanan was up 31-13.
"I thought our press was important, and the pace of the game," Boyd-Buchanan coach Cole Rose said. "We also shot the ball extremely well, especially in the first quarter. When they came out, our kids looked like they were ready to play."
Then starting with Cody Daniel's drive with 6:22 left in the second quarter, Sale Creek outscored the Bucs 19-9 to close out the half and got within eight by halftime.
"We wanted to get to the locker room," Rose said. "They were on fire. They hit like their last four or five shots in a row, and a few we contested pretty good."
Rose said because the Panthers' strategy seemed to be to slow things down, move the ball and look for defensive breakdowns, his halftime talk was about mental focus. The Bucs then came out and held Sale Creek scoreless for nearly half of the third quarter while scoring the first 11 points. They led by at least 17 the rest of the way.
"We tried to take them out of their rhythm because they're very well-schooled offensively," Sale Creek coach David Helton said. "Of course they shot the ball so well early; then you have to start making other adjustments and they get you out of what you're trying to do. Good teams take you out of what you want to do."
McMillan paced Boyd-Buchanan with 22 points, including four 3-point baskets. Austin Walker scored 15 and Zach Jenkins contributed 13.
Logan Burton, the Panthers' only senior starter, made three 3-point shots and led them with 19 points. Chase Janow added 10.
"I'm really proud of our kids," Helton said. "We finished out the year playing one senior, two juniors and six sophomores. We're predominantly pretty young, so that's exciting having a lot of experience coming back. I'm excited for the future of Sale Creek basketball."
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.