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HARRIMAN WINS STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

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Late run lead Devils past Clay County, 74-73

By Ed Greif

March 18 is a good day for the Harriman Blue Devils.

It was on that day in 1995 that the Blue Devils won their first TSSAA State Championship with a victory over Sweetwater. Twenty-two years later, and again on March 18, the Blue Devils won their second state title following a  74-73 victory over Clay County in a gripping TSSAA Class A State Championship matchup Saturday night.

"It's hard to put into words," Harriman head coach Shay Shannon said following the game. "Most of all I'm proud of 'em, I love 'em, and they deserve it."

Harriman trailed by as much as three points in the final quarter, but just in Friday's semifinals, the Blue Devils rallied for the stretch. Harriman trailed 70-67 with 1:56 to play, but back-to-back baskets from Hayden Bingham and Isaiah McClain sparked a late 7-0 run that gave the Devils a 74-70 lead before Clay County's Tyreke Key buried a late 3-pointer to make the final score 74-73.

Harriman's championship game victory was anything but easy, as the Blue Devils had to overcome foul trouble and a phenomenal performance by Clay County's Tyreke Key. The foul trouble came in the form of point guard Joe Pace picking up three fouls in the first half with Harriman commintting 15 teams fouls in the first two periods of play. By the game ended, Harriman had four starters playing with four fouls.

 

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“It's tough, tough both ways," Shannon said of the fouls. "I trust them. I told them before we come out that I trusted them and I wanted them to go have fun. We handled adversity like we have all year, we responded well. Some guys stepped up and pulled out a win.”

Key was an even bigger problem. The Mr. Basketball winner finished the contest with 40 points and 14 rebounds. His big game was part of perhaps the greatest individual performance in state tournament history. He finished the three-game event with a record 128 points. He also posted a state tournament record for points in a game when he scored 54 points against Loretto on Thursday. He was tournament MVP despite playing on the losing team.

"I told them we're not going to stop them, nobody has stopped him," Shannon Said. "He's an amazing basketball player. We tried to make it as tough as we could and he still scored 40. You got to give him a ton of credit, he just played unbelievable.

"And as a team they played well. It was one of those that just came down to the end and we got a bounce.

Clay County jumped out to a 10-4 lead with 5:16 left in the first quarter, led by Tyreke Key’s four points and 3-point baskets by Peyton Smith and Dawson Russell.

After a timeout, Harriman, led by eight points from Bingham, finished the quarter with an 16-9 run for a 21-19 advantage.

A 3-pointer by Bingham gave the Blue Devils a 24-19 lead, but another trey by Russell sent the Bulldogs on an 11-6 run to tie the game at 30-30 with 3:47 left in the half. Key, an Indiana State signee, scored four points for the ‘Dawgs.

Key chipped in five more points in a 5-1 spurt to take a 35-32 lead at the break.

Key led all scorers in the first half with 18 points, while Johnson (13 points) and Bingham (11 points) paced the Blue Devils.

The two teams matched treys to open the third quarter, but the ‘Dawgs took a 42-35 lead on two free throws by Jake Ashlock and Russell. Harriman responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game at 42 with Johnson, Bingham and Pace doing the scoring. Pace had two steals and an assist.

Clay County would rally again take a 51-48 lead, but the Blue Devils finished the quarter with a n 11-7 run to take a 59-58 advantage. Bingham had seven points in that spurt.

The fourth quarter was almost Harriman versus Key.

Harriman took a 62-61 lead with 6:51 left in the game on a layup by Bingham, after Key opened the quarter with a 3-point play for a 61-59 lead.

A Pace layup gave Harriman a 64-61 lead, but a 6-0 run, including four points by Key, gave the Bulldogs a 67-64 advantage with 4:16 remaining in the game.

Josh Davis tied the game at 67-67 with 3:58 left then Key converted two free throws with 2:44 left for a 69-67 lead. The lead grew to 70-67 with 1:56 to play, but that's when Harriman put together one last run that ended in the school's first state championship in 22 years.

Shannon said after the game that the win was important for not only his players, but for a community that turned out in large numbers to support the Blue Devils in Murfreesboro.

"They were loud and we needed it," he said. "This is not just for the guys on the team. This is for Harriman, Roane County, East Tennessee. We did it for everybody. We've had a lot of support from outside the community. It just means a lot, I think, for Harriman to have this gold ball come back."

Harriman had four players in double figures - Bingham (29), Johnson (15), McClain (12) and Pace (11). The Blue Devils were 24-of-58 from the floor and 19-of-31 from the free-throw line with 30 rebounds, seven assists and four steals.

Harriman (74): Pace 11, Johnson 15, McClain 12, Bingham 29, Davis 3, Copeland 2, Duncan 2.

Clay County (73): Smith 3, Silk 7, Key 40, Ogletree 2, Russelll 14, Ashlock 7.