MURFREESBORO — No magic this year.
Dobyns-Bennett’s basketball team fought tooth and nail all day, but could not muster a key bucket when needed and fell to Memphis East 60-51 in Wednesday’s BlueCross Championships Class 4A state quarterfinal game inside MTSU’s Murphy Center.
The loss ends the season for the defending state champion Indians, who overcame adversity all season and still had a chance to reach the mountaintop.
“We couldn’t quite get over the hump,” Dobyns-Bennett coach Chris Poore said. “We were down one, four or five possessions. We had an open 3-pointer and a missed layup. Had we gotten over that hump and scored one bucket, I think it may have changed the perspective and the pressure.”
The Mustangs (26-9) advanced to Friday’s semifinals at 12:30 p.m. against Independence, which thumped Blackman, 66-34.
Memphis East took full advantage of a size deficit in the paint, going to 6-foot-8 junior post Alijah Curry starting on the first possession. Curry ended his day with 20 points — going 10-for-14 from the foul line — and eight rebounds.
Down the stretch East was money at the charity stripe, hitting 9 for 10 and holding off the charging Indians.
“I didn’t think (D-B) was very strong on the inside, so I thought Alijah could exploit that,” Memphis East coach Jevonte Holmes said. “We tried to use that mismatch to set the tone because he can step outside and hit some shots.”
Memphis East started the third quarter on a 9-1 run in the first 2:45 to take a 37-32 lead. The stretch was highlighted by a long 3-pointer from Jamarion Harvey to break a tie at 32. Harvey netted 12 points, five rebounds and three assists on the day.
The Indians (23-11) — like they have since the opening game — fought almost the entire way back and had a chance to take the lead with 3:05 left and trailing 51-50, but a missed open layup by Brady Stump left the Tribe begging.
Stump — a senior with over 1,500 career points and in the school’s top 10 scorers of all-time — finished the game with 19 points, three rebounds and two assists.
“It’s been a great year with a lot of ups and downs,” Stump said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. We overcame a lot of adversity this year and I think that made us stronger.”
“This season has been incredible,” D-B guard Dante Oliver said. “Even though I got hurt and I wasn’t on the court, I love this team. This has definitely been my favorite year and my experience here has been incredible.”
Kingsport started out the first quarter on fire, shooting 9-for-15 and getting easy bucket after easy bucket. The Tribe grabbed a halftime lead thanks to a long range shot from Stump after Memphis East had tied the game at 28.
It looked as if the Tribe was going to find the magic again, but the Mustangs adjusted out of the locker room with more pressure and turned D-B over four times in the first three minutes of the third period.
“The biggest thing was they just put pressure on the ball,” Poore said. “They really face-guarded Dante (Oliver) and Brady. They made it tough for them to get the ball and when they did get the ball, they gave very little help.
“They used their strength and pressured us really well.”
East’s Luther Hackman — a 6-foot-3 senior guard with a silky smooth floater — finished the game with 13 points and four rebounds. Zackery Hayslett also netted 10 points for the Mustangs, who shot 17-for-40 from the field with 15 turnovers.
Junior Charlie McHugh was the only other D-B player in double-figures with 10. Senior standout Jonavan Gillespie was not with the team.
The Tribe struggled mightily in the second half, netting just 20 points and going 7-for-22 from the field with 10 turnovers.
“From day one, the goals of this team have been incredibly high,” Poore said. “The taste of success gave them what they wanted to pursue again. In the locker room, the guys believed they could beat anybody.
“We suffered adversity from so many different angles from injuries, players and different lineups, to not having a gym for half the season. It was a whole slew of things and our guys never complained.”