Win and advance: Rebels spread wealth in regional victory
By John Brice | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mark Eldridge has coached long enough, with remarkably consistent success, that it’s understandable if postseason runs sometimes blend into one another. But Maryville’s veteran head coach and former state championship winner knows a few things distinguish his current squad: depth, defensive tenacity and a selfless approach.
All factors were on display Saturday night in the opening round of the Region 2-AAA Tournament at Maryville’s Jim Campbell Gymnasium, where the top-seeded Rebels systematically dispatched upstart Clinton, 50-32.
“Those guys are just as confident as the starters, and that’s a rarity in high school basketball,” said Eldridge, whose teams have advanced to region play in 17 of his 18 years as head coach. “And I told the bench guys, most of the time in the postseason, games are lost with the guys who come in and give you minutes. As long as they continue to come in and give us good minutes, we’ve got a chance to keep advancing.”
Maryville (25-6) moved on in impressive fashion on this night, when five players scored at least six points apiece. The Rebels now advance into the Region 2-AAA semifinals Tuesday at Oak Ridge.
“It’s pretty big,” said senior guard T.J. Kimble, who scored all nine of his points in the second half. “I know that we’ve got one more game, and we get (a guaranteed) substate game. And that’s what we want. We don’t care who we play.”
The undersized Dragons, improbable region qualifiers following a nice district tournament run, saw Maryville’s suffocating defense decrease their scoring output incrementally through the first three quarters, slipping from eight to seven and then just five points in the defining third.
“Defense is key, especially in tournament ball, and as a leader I just want to be vocal and tell them this is what we’ve got to do first,” Kimble said. “The offense is going to come. Play great help-side and do the little things on defense and everything is going to come. If we keep doing that, I think everything will be fine.”
Dashing into the half up nine on the heels of an 8-0 spurt, the Rebels put the game out of reach with an 11-5 third-quarter scoring edge. Despite Clark McCall sitting out the second half after absorbing an elbow that knocked him to the floor and B.J. Landers battling foul trouble, Maryville pushed to a 42-23 on the last two of Isaac Edmiston’s game-best 15 points. Edmiston cleaned up the offensive glass for the points and continued his recent surge, finishing with six boards. McCall had six points and eight rebounds, all in the first half, and Jon Garrett chipped in eight. Landers had six points, five rebounds, an assist and two steals in limited work.
“Our bench guys came in and we didn’t skip a beat,” Eldridge said. “For us the last two months, we’ve been playing eight, nine and even 10 guys. But I think those top eight are playing really well right now. …
“Isaac (Saturday night) was really good, big plays. Who’s it going to be Tuesday? It could be anybody. It was Jon the last time. T.J. the time (before). We’ve got seven guys who can score if we need them to.”
Maryville led by five points five minutes into the game, but it then endured a prolonged field goal drought. The Dragons responded, Antonelli’s three-pointer 75 seconds into the second quarter giving the visitors a lead.
But the host Rebels snapped their scoring slump in a big way, outpacing Clinton 14-4 across the half’s final six minutes for a 24-15 edge at the break. Biggest in the splurge were back-to-back triples from the rangy Edmiston.
Jacob Williamson paced Clinton with 10 points. Birdman McKamey hit a pair of threes but was mostly contained by Maryville’s suffocating defense.