Late runs sends OS to title game

-A A +A
By The Staff


Roane Newspapers

One small adjustment made a world of difference Wednesday night for the Oliver Springs Bobcats as Tony Ingram's squad knocked off Tellico Plains 44-32 to advance to the Region 2-A Tournament championship game against Harriman.

Trailing 28-25, Bobcat head coach Tony Ingram told his defense to extend their packed-in zone on the perimeter to see if that could rattle the Bears and jump start the offense. The move worked as Oliver Springs responded with an 18-1 run that erased the deficit and put the game away.

"We had been sitting back in a zone, but coach Ingram called time out and told Rue (Eskridge) and our wings to extend the defense," Bobcat senior and District 4-A MVP Wesley Rather said. "They hadn't seen it and it worked. We were able to get some steals and that started some fast breaks. That move changed the game."

Up until that point neither team could do much offensively as both defenses did a good job of protecting the basket.

The opening period would see both teams struggling to find the basket as the score was knotted at 7-7 after eight minutes of play.

Action did pick up in the second quarter. Oliver Springs opened the period with a 14-6 run to take a 21-13 lead, but the Bobcats would be unable to take the momentum into the locker room at halftime as Tellico Plains scored the final four points of the second period to pull to within four points, 21-17, at intermission.

Tellico Plains' run continued into the third period. The Bears scored the first six points of the second half and outscored Oliver Springs 8-4 in the period to tie the game at 25 with eight minutes left to play.

The final period opened with Tellico Plains scoring the first three points to take a 28-25 lead with 6:58 left to play. The rest of the evening, however, belonged to the Bobcats.

Tyler Harper started the decisive run with a free throw, but Oliver Springs' next basket brought the purple and gold faithful to their feet. After a Bear turnover, Justin Taylor dished the ball down court where Lucas Tarver tied the game with a two-handed slam dunk.

Taylor, who didn't play in the first three quarters, came up with another assist on the Bobcats next possession as he fed the ball to Rather who buried a three-pointer for a 31-28 Bobcat lead with 5:13 left to play. Taylor then scored a basket of his own 33 seconds later as Oliver Springs suddenly held a 33-28 lead.

Rather kept the run going with back-to-back baskets that made the score 37-28 with 3:35 left to play. Following another steal, Rather found Garret Miller with an old-fashioned three-point play that gave the Bobcats a 40-28 lead with 1:22 left.

Tellico Plains would snap their 5:47 scoreless drought with a free throw at the 1:11 mark, but there would be no miraculous finish for the Bears as Oliver Springs went on to the 12-point victory.

Rather led Oliver Springs on the night with 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Tarver (9 points, 6 rebounds) and Harper (8 points, 5 rebounds) were next in line for Oliver Springs.

Donovan McKenzie led Tellico Plains with 16 points and six rebounds.

With the victory, Oliver Springs advanced to Thursday's Region 2-A championship game against Harriman. More important than that, however, is the fact the Bobcats also earned a berth in Monday's sectional round of the playoffs. The winner of Monday's game will advance to the TSSAA Class A State Tournament in Murfreesboro.

"We've finally got that monkey off our back," Rather said. "We haven't been to the sub state since 1999 and our goal all season has been to make it to the sub state and have a chance at the state tournament. We still want to beat Harriman and win the region, but we're very excited to be playing on Monday."

Oliver Springs (44) Tarver 9, Eskridge 1, Miller 6, Harper 8, Rather 18, Taylor 2.