It was Lebanon’s first district title since winning the 2001 7-AAA crown. For the Blue Devils, it was a measure of payback to the Bison, who knocked them out of the Region 5-AAA semifinals last year and beat them in the 9-AAA final two years ago.
Freshman point guard Jeremiah Hastings made many of the key plays. He hit two free throws and a three-pointer to wipe out a 23-19 halftime deficit. Another triple opened the fourth quarter to put Lebanon up 30-28. After veteran Noah Mulaski’s free throw broke a 33-33 tie with 2:12 to play, it was Hastings’ layup which finished a play started by a Mulaski steal which put the Blue Devils up by three and forced the Bison, with only three team fouls, to start fouling to get LHS to the free-throw line.
JaKeese Turner tossed in 3 of 4 free throws and tournament most valuable player Cameron Oliver dived on the floor for his miss to save a possession to help the Blue Devils bag their 22nd triumph of the season against seven setbacks.
'We threw (Hastings) in the fire right before Christmas and he’s really stepped up and had a lot of plays,” Lebanon coach Jim McDowell said after his Blue Devils won for the 13th time in their last 14 outings. “He’s a kid that’s got ice water in his veins. There’s no moment that’s too big for him. He’s a really smart kid, a really humble kid. We’ve thrown a lot at him and he’s been a sponge.
“I was really proud of our kids for the way we battled back in a tough game in a really great atmosphere.”
Lebanon built a 12-4 lead on a 10-0 run. But Station Camp answered with a 9-0 spurt to end the first half ahead 23-19 as both teams played at a deliberate pace.
Hastings and Mulaski joined Oliver on the all-tournament team. Mulaski, Oliver and Eddie Jackson were joined on the all-district team by Wilson Central’s Gavin Johnson. McDowell repeated as coach of the year.
Hastings hit two triples and all 10 of his points in the second half while nine of Mulaski’s tallies came before halftime. Turener turned in two triples and nine points, with six coming in the fourth quarter. Oliver added eight, including a pair of threes. Jackson tossed in two.
Point guard Chase Freeman kept Station Camp in the game with 18 points as he hit a pair of threes and otherwise got to the rim with some regularity as the Bison fell to 20-10.
“Chase Freeman, I’m definitely not sad to see him go,” McDowell said. “And Thomas Zazzaro, those kids are winners. They’ve had a great deal of adversity.
“But our kids, it says a great deal about them. I don’t think many people back when the season started would have picked us to be where we are now, especially after Gallatin came in here and handled us by 19 on Jan. 10. I really challenged our kids the next couple of days and they’ve responded ever since then. I can’t say enough about our seniors, guys like Cameron Oliver and JaKeese Turner and David Covile and Brett Hutto.
Lebanon will play at home at 7 p.m. Saturday in a region satellite game against the fourth-place team from District 10, the loser of tonight’s consolation contest between Northeast and Kenwood, with the winner visiting Station Camp at the same time. Saturday’s winners will return to LHS next Tuesday for the semifinals.
Without the 9-AAA MVP, Bears take third place
Mt. Juliet’s boys lost senior sharpshooter J.R. Sanders to an ankle sprain two minutes into the second half of Saturday’s District 9-AAA semifinal loss to Station Camp.
Hours before he was announced as the league’s regular-season most valuable player, Sanders watched as his teammates outlasted Beech 55-48 to take third place at Lebanon’s Campbell Brandon Gym/Hester Gibbs Court.
Fellow senior Trey Pruitt was the early sparkplug as he scored Mt. Juliet’s first seven points. The Golden Bears led 18-6 early in the second quarter before Beech battled back with a 10-0 run.
Beech finally caught the Bears, but could only pass them once at 34-33 on a one-hander in the lane by A.J. Robertson in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
But big man Isaac Stephens scored on the other end and Jordan Lockridge and Terrell Wilson converted back-to-back three-point plays to open some space in the score. Wilson, who led Mt. Juliet with 18 points, scored off the glass to make it 45-37 and put the Buccaneers in catch-up mode.
Beech twice cut the margin to four. But Wilson sank all seven of his free throws in the fourth quarter (eight for the game) to keep Mt. Juliet in front as the Bears improved to 21-9 for the season.
Pruitt put in 12 of his 14 points in the first half while Lockridge notched all nine of his tallies in the second half. Stephens and Brian Aiken each scored six and Joey Hayes two late free throws.
Jayson Brown threw in 13 to lead the Buccaneers, who fell to 17-14.
Both teams will be on the road at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Region 5-AAA satellite game with the winners returning to Lebanon next Tuesday for the semifinals. Mt. Juliet will visit the loser of tonight’s Northwest-Springfield District 10 title game while Beech will travel to the winner. Coach Troy Allen said before the game he was hoping Sanders could play Saturday, though he hadn’t even started trying to run yet.
Joining Sanders on the all-district team were Stephens and Pruitt. Wilson was named to the all-tournament team.