MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Tyner's basketball team found itself trailing even before the first second had ticked off the game clock Thursday. The Rams never recovered from that ominous start as East Nashville rolled to an 81-62 win in the quarterfinals of the Class AA state tournament at Middle Tennessee State University.
Tyner was called for a technical foul during warmups, which allowed the Eagles to begin the game with a pair of free throws. East Nashville scored the game's first five points and built a 14-point advantage by the end of the first quarter.
"They got that big lead right out of the gate and we never really recovered," Rams coach Gerald Harris said. "The way the game started, then falling behind big early, all that stuff adds up mentally and can make guys try to force things they don't normally do.
"We got good looks at the basket but didn't convert, and our defense, which had carried us all season and usually helps us convert into easy baskets and get runs going, we really didn't get the stops we needed."
The Eagles maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second quarter. Although Tyner rallied early in the second half, the Rams never got closer than seven.
"We had one chance to cut it to six when we were going to the free-throw line, but we missed the first free throw and that was kind of the story," Harris said. "We just couldn't get any breaks we needed, whether it was a block or charge call going against us or turnovers or missed shot opportunities.
"They seemed more poised than we did, and that could be because they were here last year and knew how to adjust to this environment. None of our kids have played in this big arena, and you could tell: We just seemed out of character all day."
Tyner, which hadn't lost to a team in its classification this season, was making its first state-tournament appearance in four years, and the nerves showed as the Rams turned the ball over 11 times in the first half. By the end of the third quarter, the Eagles had outscored Tyner 17-5 in points off turnovers.
"I do think we played nervous," said senior guard Sadik Spence, who finished with a team-high 17 points but was limited in the second half by foul trouble, causing him to miss seven minutes of game time. "We came out kind of scared.
"None of us have played in a big place like this. But I thought we were finally settling down in the third quarter, and when we got to within seven, it felt like we were finally going to get things to go our way. But they answered right back.
"We have eight seniors and our goal was to get here and we did that, but this is not how we wanted to end our season."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.
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 ...