One step closer: Garrett’s free throws send Rebels back to region title game
By Grant Ramey | (email@example.com)
OAK RIDGE — You could feel the sense of relief on the Maryville bench. All Mark Eldridge could do was raise his hands straight up, fists clinched.
After what seemed like an eternity, John Garrett was headed to the free throw line to finally put Powell away.
The senior Maryville High School guard, the Rebels’ best free throw shooter, knocked down both of the double-bonus free throws with just over 10 seconds left in overtime to effectively put away a 74-69 win in the Region 2-AAA semifinal.
“We tried to get it to John the last five or six (possessions) and we just couldn’t get it to him,” Eldridge said. “We told them if you can’t get it to John call timeout and we’ll set something up to get it to him.
“He’s a 90-percent free-throw shooter. And we had missed some.”
But over and over, Powell kept the ball out of Garrett’s hands off the Rebels’ regular late-game inbound play to get it to their point guard’s hands.
“That last minute just felt like forever,” Garrett said with a smile. “I was trying to come up and get it but we run that play about every game. When they caught on to it and denied me, we had to get it to somebody else.”
Garrett was one of four Rebels that scored in double figures, finishing with 16 points. Clark McCall had a team-high 22, T.J. Kimble had 16 and Isaac Edmiston had a timely 13.
Bryan Landers added 7 for Maryville (27-6), as the Rebels got all 74 points scored from its starting five, helping secure a spot in both the region final Thursday night and a berth in the state sectional round with the win.
“There was a lot of pressure on us,” Eldridge said, whose team has won eight straight games dating back to a Jan. 31 loss to Oak Ridge. “We went to the sub-state last year and we lost three or four games in a two-week span, a lot of people worried about us.
“I thought we would be solid at the end of the year because we’ve been here before.”
The Rebels used that ‘been here before’ experience in the closing minutes of regulation.
Clay Payne, who led the Powell (25-6) with a game-high 24 points, had put the Panthers up by 5, capping a 6-0 run with just over four minutes left in regulation to make the score 53-48.
But the Rebels strung together a 7-0 run of their own, with a 3-pointer and two free throws from Garrett bracketed around a McCall put back on the offensive glass.
“Bryan Landers made some big-time steals,” Eldridge said of what sparked the run. “I thought when we went with a small lineup down 5 with about two minutes to go we got a couple stops and changed the momentum of the game.”
Neither team could score in the final 45 seconds of regulation after Matt Edens tied the game at 56-all from the free throw line for Powell.
The Panthers had possession with 10 seconds left, but Lex Waters lost control of the ball driving to the bucket and Maryville took possession. Landers’ desperation heave from half-court bounced off back iron to send the game to overtime.
That’s where the Rebels continued their run, reeling off an 8-0 run after Powell went scoreless on its first three overtime possessions.
A 3-point play from Kimble, on the receiving end of a three-quarter court outlet pass, put Maryville up 64-56 with 1:49 left.
But the Panthers didn’t quit.
Powell went to work from the line, going 6-for-6 from the line for its final 6 points to creep back into the game while Landers, Kimble and McCall each missed either the front- or back-end of the Rebels’ double-bonus free throws.
Garrett made both ends of his trip to the line to make it 72-69 with just over 10 seconds left in the extra period. Powell missed two desperation 3s on its final possession.
“I knew they could make it, but I guess it was all this pressure,” Garrett said of his teammates’ missed free throws. “I was feeling nervous when I went to the line, but I stepped up and knocked them down.”
Payne scored 12 of Powell’s first 14 points to open the game, while Garrett and Maryville made its first six shot from the floor, but only the Rebels clung to a 13-12 lead.
Payne was held to 12 the rest of the way after Eldridge adjusted the game plan, putting Landers on Payne.
“Some people say we don’t win by a lot, but we know how to win,” Eldridge said, “and I think that’s very true.
“When we need to make plays, we make plays. And that’s the sign of a good basketball team.”