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The Harriman Blue Devils are two wins away from their first state championship since 1995, as they defeated 3-time Class A champion Mitchell 59-54 in the last quarterfinal game of the state tournament Thursday night at Murphy Center on the MTSU campus.
“Some people doubted us, but we knew if we came in, stuck with our game plan and if we made plays we had a chance,” Harriman head coach Shay Shannon said. “Turned out tonight we were the better team.
“These guys did exactly what we asked. We trusted them to make plays and that’s what they did.
Harriman’s victory wasn’t vintage Blue Devil run-and-gun. Thursday’s opener was a physical battle that was played at a slower pace that many believed favored the Tigers from Memphis.
“It was fun,” Harriman senior Isaiah McClain said. “We played in a half court set and they slowed it down, beat us up but we made plays all night.”
“It’s a change from what we normally do, but we came into this game prepared for what they had,” fellow senior Joe Pace added.
“The biggest part was our defensive intensity,” Shannon said. “We stuck it out and played as well as we could have on the defensive end. That’s what I’m most proud of. That’s who we are and that’s what we do. We take a lot of pride on the defensive end and I’m proud of these guys for coming out on top.”
The Tigers led 4-3 on a basket buy Tyran Davis, but a putback basket by McClain sent the Blue Devils on a 6-0 run for a 9-4 lead with 2:18 let in the first quarter; however, a layup by Dominique Marion and a trey by Mohanna Sanders tied the game at 9-9 with 1:30 remaining.
Another layup by McClain sparked a 5-0 run to give the Blue Devils a 14-9 lead by quarter’s end.
McClain had six points for the Blue Devils, who were 5-of-11 from the field and 3-of-6 from the free throw line with five turnovers. Harriman out rebounded Mitchell 9-8, as John Johnson and McClain each hauled down three rebounds.
Mitchell was 4-of-13 from the field with five turnovers.
McClain opened the second quarter with a trey, as Harriman eventually led by as many as nine points in the period at 19-10. However, McClain and Johnson would spend much of the second quarter on the bench in foul trouble. That foul trouble allowed Mitchell to close to within three points, but a late 3-pointer from Josh Davis gave the Blue Devils a 27-21 lead at halftime.
“There some guys that came off the bench that played huge,” Shannon said of the importance of holding onto the lead with two starters on the bench. “They gave us some big minutes when he had some of our key guys sitting. They stepped up and did their job.”
McClain led the Blue Devils with nine points and nine rebounds at the half for the Blue Devils, who were 8-of-21 from the field and 8-of-14 from the charity stripe with nine turnovers. Harriman out rebounded Mitchell 20-16 at the break.
Joe Pace scored four points in a 7-2 run for a 34-23 lead with 5:43 remaining in the third period, but Marion converted a layup to send the Tigers on a 13-7 run to slice the lead to 41-35 after three quarters of play.
Pace had six points for Harriman, who was 4-of-13 from the floor and 5-of-6 from charity stripe, while holding the Tigers to 6-of-17 from the field and 2-of-3 from the free throw line.
The scoring tempo slowed in the fourth quarter, as McClain converted 1-of-2 free throws with 5:04 left Johnson and Eli Duncan followed with back-to-back baskets as Harriman’s lead swelled to 48-37 with 3:37 left to play.
The lead stood at 52-40 with 2:16 remaining, but the Tigers didn’t get quit, finishing the quarter with a 14-7 run for the 59-54 final score.
McClain (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Pace (14 points, 7 rebounds) scored in double figures for Harriman while Johnson (9 points, 9 points), Bingham (8 points, 7 rebounds) and Duncan (5 points, 9 rebounds) also put up solid numbers in the win).
Marion (13 points, 8 rebounds) and Davis (11 points) paced the Tigers in defeat.
With the victory, Harriman advances to Friday’s semifinals and a matchup against Columbia Academy (27-6).
“We just to stay focused and do what we do,” Pace said. “When we do what we do we’re a pretty good team. We just got to stick with what we do and finish.”
Mitchell (54) Davis 11, Sanders 8, Johnson 6, Marion 13, Nicholson 7, Rice 5, Rias 4.
Harriman (59) Pace 14, Johnson 9, McClain 18, Bingham 8, Davis 3, Copeland 2, Duncan 5.