By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
Madison Southern and Model played another classic game Thursday in the semifinals of the 44th District Tournament at McBrayer Arena — and as it did last year, the game came down to the final seconds.
And as they did last year, the Eagles made the plays down the stretch to hang on for a tough 68-63 win over the Patriots to advance to today’s championship game against Madison Central.
The game featured a little of everything — big shot after big shot, runs by both teams and comebacks by both teams, nine lead changes and four ties and a few controversial calls thrown in for good measure.
After trailing 39-30 with six minutes left in the third quarter, Southern fought back to take a 46-45 lead on a basket by Tyler Abshear with seven seconds left in the quarter.
A three pointer by Mike Rothermel ended a 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles a 57-47 lead with 3:27 to go in the game.
Trailing 60-49 with 1:11 left on the clock, Model refused to go down without a fight.
Anthony Gerald nailed a three pointer five seconds later to pull the Patriots to within 60-52.
After two Abshear free throws, Gerald scored on a layup after a steal and hit another three pointer to cut the Eagle lead to 62-57 with 47 seconds left.
Following a Drew Taylor free throw, Gerald hit another three pointer with two Southern players draped all over him to pull the Patriots to within three at 63-60.
The Patriots then knocked the ball loose from Damien Harris at mid-court near the Southern bench and as three players fought for the loose ball, Southern coach Shane Buttry was awarded a timeout, much to the displeasure of the Model bench.
Abshear was fouled after the timeout to push the lead to 65-60, but Zack Rice-Gordon buried a three pointer with 12 seconds to go to pull Model to within two at 65-63.
On the inbounds play, Southern hit Drew Taylor with a run-out pass. Taylor scored and was fouled with 6.5 seconds to go. He hit the free throw to give the Eagles the 68-63 win.
“If you look at our games this year, we won 18 games and in at least 12 of them we were trailing in the third quarter, so I knew we could come on,” Buttry said. “We made some great passes late in the game. They went to double-team Tyler and unselfish as he is he gave it up and we make two passes out of the trap and get a layup. And we knocked down some free throws. We may have banked in three of them but they went in. I don’t care when we win, it’s a win.”
As for the loose ball timeout, the second time a timeout was awarded to Southern in a scramble for loose balls, the two coaches had very different opinions on whether it should have been awarded.
Buttry said he felt it was the appropriate call.
“Both of the calls they were upset about, I called them and the official was standing right beside me,” Buttry said. “Two were working the plays and one was looking at me, so they got the call right. I don’t know who all believes that, but they did get it right because we had two hands on the ball.”
Model coach Wes Scarberry on the other hand wasn’t exactly thrilled with the officiating all night.
“I felt like we lost 100 percent for one reason and anybody who watched that game knows exactly why we lost that game,” Scarberry said after the game. “It’s a shame. We didn’t deserve that. At this point in the year you are supposed to have the best out there and I debate that.”
While the officiating can be debated, one thing that can’t be questioned was the total domination the Eagles had on the backboards in the fourth quarter when they made their run.
Model pulled down five rebounds in the fourth quarter while Southern grabbed 16 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive glass, giving the Eagles second and sometimes third-chance scoring opportunities.
Abshear lead three Eagles in double figures with 21 points, while Mike Rothermel and Drew Taylor added 11 each. Spencer Stone finished with six points, Harris, Jake Napier and Marlin Taylor had five points each and Jake Napier had four points.
Gerald led Model with a game-high 22 points, Jon Ballard and A.J. Hammons had 15 points each, while Rice-Gordon had five points, Jesse Middleton had four points and Brendan Hill had two.
Though disappointed following the loss, Scarberry said he was proud of his team for not giving up.
“It’s our trademark with these seniors, they don’t quit,” Scarberry said. “They never have in their whole life and that is what is going to make them successful people beyond high school and beyond basketball.”
Madison Southern and Madison Central are scheduled to tipoff at 8:15 p.m. today following the girls championship game between the Lady Indians and Lady Eagles.