The Macon County High Tigers hosted Tyner Academy in the Sub-State round of the AA State Tournament Saturday March 6th. Oh was it a special night!
First, let me begin by trying to describe the atmosphere. I have covered hundreds of basketball games, been to hundreds more, and broadcasted for the Tiger nation at a large number of football stadiums in 12 plus years. I have never seen a more hostile (in a positive way), louder, more fired-up gym than Nera White Gymnasium was on March 6th. The only comparison was the Tigerette sub-state victory in 2011 at home, I believe, and in my opinion this time the gym was rocking even louder. As a fan you talk about influencing a game with your support, well this time I think that happened. I don’t know if I ever played, coached, witnessed, covered, or broadcasted in an environment quite like that, much less those shell-shocked young men from Tyner. Tiger fans did make a little difference and I can honestly say affected the game a bit on this night.
Losing the opening tip was about the only thing the Tigers didn’t accomplish in this game. Macon blitzed Tyner and jumped out to a 9-0 lead, led by a three pointer by Cameron Welch that blew the roof off the building on the second possession. The Tigers pushed the lead to as much as sixteen in the 2nd quarter when they led 27-11. However Tyner started creating Macon turnovers, which they capitalized on, and came back and cut the lead to 27-33 at the half.
The Tigers committed an uncharacteristic 10 turnovers in the first half. Also the Tigers committed a large number of fouls in the first two quarters, as the Rams drove to the bucket. A team with a little less depth would have really been in trouble.
In the 3rd quarter Tyner tried to force the tempo. The only shot they had to win this game was to force even more turnovers and score off of them. The Rams had no answer for the Tigers on offense and Macon proved that it could defend the Ram offense. Tyner had the lead cut to two with a chance to tie the game 39-41 midway thru the 3rd quarter but couldn’t make it happen. The Tigers would go on a 6-0 run in the final three minutes and get two stops on defense to send it to the final period leading 47-39.
Very few teams make it to the sub-state if they aren’t very good. Make no mistake; Tyner Academy was a good athletic basketball team who would not quit. However, on this night, on this court, the Tigers would not be denied. Just as big as his shot in the opening minutes was, with 3:43 left in the game Cameron Welch hit a three pointer in front of the MCHS student section, which pushed the lead up to 10. Tyner was forced to start fouling and Michael Ashburn, Kendrick Carter, and Seth Carlisle were part of a Tiger team that made 13 of 14 free throws in the 4th quarter to seal the win. Final score was Macon 69 Tyner 58. Hats off to the Rams, I would have hated to play that game in that environment.
Scoring for the game was: Seth Carlisle 21, Michael Ashburn (double-double with 13 rebounds) 14, Heston King 10, Dalton Marsh 8, Cameron Welch 8, Riley Phillips 6, and Kendrick Carter 2. Kelton Ballou and Cole Carnahan played but did not score. As charged as the game was the Tigers actually did not play their best game. Macon committed an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers and shot 48% (23-47) from the field and 18% (2-11) from long distance. They must do a better job of protecting the ball at the next level.
Of special note in this game was the support for Head Coach Jason Welch and his family. Coach Welch lost his father this past weekend following a long illness after the Tiger victory in the Region 4AA tournament. “My mother died five years ago and my father was just never the same, I think he died of a broken heart,” Welch said before the game. His brother, an uncle, and a few cousins made the trip north to Lafayette to watch the Tigers. Sophomore guard Cameron Welch showed some visible emotion on the court, when he hit both of his three point shots, book-ending the victory, and when he hugged his father, not his coach, at the final buzzer.
This is the first trip to the state tournament for Welch’s Tigers and only the second in the program’s history. The first was in the 1985-1986 season, 31 years ago. It speaks well for the program and our school that there were a large number of people from around our area of the state on hand to pull for the Tigers. . It was the first appearance in the sub-state for the Tigers since 1999 when the Tigers hosted Martin Luther King.
At the state tournament draw, Macon drew lucky number 7 and got the #1 ranked team in AA right out of the gate in Knox Catholic in the opening game in that classification. So the #1 and #3 ranked teams in Class AA will meet on March 15th at Murphy Center in Murfreesboro. Tip-off for that game is scheduled for 4:30 pm.