KNOXVILLE — When you’re taken behind the woodshed, as the old saying goes, to open the basketball season, it’s encouraging to push that same team to the wire less than two weeks later.
Hardin Valley Academy boys, a 41-point loser at Powell Nov. 15, pushed PHS to the limit, losing 64-61, during 26th Annual Central Bobcats Thanksgiving tourney title game Saturday night, Nov. 26.
“I’m just really proud of the guys’ efforts. … They’re really playing as a team. Two weeks ago, in game one, it was a 41-point loss at Powell. And to turn around and have a 3-point game right here, in a championship environment, is a big step for a lot of our guys who have little varsity experience,” Shane Chambers, HVA head coach, said. “We never gave up. It was a game to the very end.”
A late Hawks rally, after trailing the entire game and being down 56-45 with 3:30 to play in the fourth quarter, left Hardin Valley with a chance to tie in the closing seconds.
Down 63-60 after rebounding a missed Panthers free throw, an HVA three-point try misfired before Hunter Huff hit one of two free throws with 5.6 seconds left, cutting the lead to 63-61.
After Powell missed the second of two free throws with four seconds to play, a half-court shot to tie at the buzzer fell short.
Hardin Valley started the week with a 3-3 overall record.
“It was about a 10-point game all throughout the ballgame. In the fourth quarter we started to really pressure on the defensive end,” Chambers said.
“And then on the offensive end, that’s when we really started to get into a groove, looking to attack offensively. ... We had some guys starting to make three-pointers that got us into the game,” he added.
“I was really trying to keep guys’ heads up,” Huff, a senior starting guard who scored a co-team-high 9 points, said. “I knew games could shift like that at any second.”
With Chambers rotating in most of his bench at regular intervals, “I could tell that they were getting tired with our depth, wearing them out. And defensively, we made a few plays,” Huff added.
E. J. Caldwell and Tanner White also scored nine points each for HVA, which earned its championship shot after edging Tennessee High [Bristol] 63-59 Tuesday, Nov. 22, then slipped past Carter 61-58 Friday, Nov. 25.
Tanner White’s 14 points and Huff’s 11 led HVA versus Carter.
Tristen Waite’s 15 points, followed by Tanner White’s 13 and Carter White’s 10 points, led the Hawks against Tennessee High.
“We’ve been buying into the coaches and we’re just getting better and better each game,” Tanner White, a junior, said.
While Chambers said, “We got some football players back this week getting back in the basketball mode,” he added, “We’ve still got a couple of guys that are injured.”