published Friday, February 28th, 2014

Rams outlast Panthers for Region 3-AA title

Tyner's DeVante Jones, center, is overcome with emotion after the Rams defeated Brainerd at the Region 3-AA championship game Thursday at East Ridge High School.
Tyner's DeVante Jones, center, is overcome with emotion after the Rams defeated Brainerd at the Region 3-AA championship game Thursday at East Ridge High School.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
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    Tyner players celebrate their Region 3-AA championship victory over Brainerd Thursday at East Ridge High School.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
    enlarge photo

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    Tyner's Dequan Hardwick, right, moves past Brainerd's Da'v Moore during the Region 3-AA championship game at East Ridge High School on Thursday.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
    enlarge photo

DeVante Jones knew the shot was going in when he shot it. So did Brainerd coach Levar Brown.

They were right.

Jones' 3-pointer with 1:07 remaining gave Tyner a four-point lead and a cushion the Rams wouldn't relinquish in defeating Brown's Panthers 61-55 for the Region 3-AA boys' basketball championship Thursday evening at East Ridge. It was Tyner's fourth win over Brainerd this season.

Tyner (24-3) will host Livingston Academy in a state sectional game Monday, while Brainerd will travel to Region 4 champion Upperman. All games have a 7 p.m. local start time.

Jones totaled 10 points but had six in the final 1:07, starting with the 3-pointer.

"I just got an open look, but I knew it was going in," Jones said of his only 3 of the game. "It's hard to beat a team four times, but we got the win and now we're going to have our crowd behind us on Monday."

Brainerd (22-7) led for most of the game, as the Rams didn't even hold a lead until 3:49 remained in the third quarter. The teams were tied at 39 headed into the fourth, and there were three more ties and four lead changes in the final period. Kevin Cameron hit one of two free throws with 1:37 remaining to give Tyner a 53-52 edge, and after Brainerd was called for stepping on the line, Jones' 3 gave the Rams some breathing room.

He also had a key steal that turned into a Sadik Spence layup, and Alex Watkins tipped a Wendell Graham 3-point attempt that turned into a Jones layup at the end.

"It was just a dogfight," Tyner coach Gerald Harris said. "I thought we held our composure at the end and played some great defense. We've been in some tight games like this, so we understand adversity. The guys are resilient. To run the table in the district and the region, we weren't rattled tonight."

Spence, the regional's most valuable player, led the Rams with 16 points, while Daaron Maston added 10.

Orlando Moore had 22 points and seven rebounds to lead Brainerd, while Tyree Stubbs added 16 points and eight rebounds.

"We had a couple of mental lapses," Brown said. "Tyner is tough. They stayed composed, and it doesn't hurt to have one of the best point guards around [Spence]. We probably made some tired mistakes, but we just have to turn around and pull one out on Monday."

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

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