|Twisters pass test against Mt. Juliet |
|NASHVILLE — The Union City boys faced a Mt. Juliet team that offered a new challenge on the season and the Golden Tornadoes passed the test Thursday night by grinding out a 67-62 win in the opening round of the Battle for the State Tournament. |
The Tornadoes kept their perfect record intact and now stand 11-0 with the win over the Class AAA Bears from Wilson County. With their victory in Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena, the Purple and Gold advance to the semifinals in the tournament for the second year and will play Sycamore tonight at 7. Sycamore followed UC’s victory with a 61-54 win over Murfreesboro Riverdale.
Union City’s first game in the tournament was not easy, but Twister head coach Shane Sisco was not expecting an easy task as his team has enjoyed much of the season.
“(Mt. Juliet) is a very good defensive team and their kids are well-coached,” Sisco said. “They get to the right spot on the floor, position-wise. They do a good job guarding the ball. Anytime you face somebody that is this good defensively, it is going to be a game like it was tonight.”
The 68 points scored by UC was a season low, one less scored in a 20-point victory over Bradford. However, the Tornadoes were able to slow down their large-school opponents. Mt. Juliet had entered the tournament on a roll with three straight wins over AAA opponents Whites Creek, Hillsboro and Lebanon by a combined average of 25 points.
The Tornadoes also showed Mt. Juliet its pressing defense. UC forced 21 turnovers and the pressing defense helped negate the Bears’ size advantage.
“It was one of those where it is pretty much grind it out, and I am proud of our kids for hanging in there,” Sisco said. “We haven’t played anyone like this all year.
“They were a bunch of football kids, physical, real strong. They took us out of a lot of things we wanted to do early. We made some adjustments and we totally spread the floor more. They were so good defensively in the half court.”
UC led 18-14 after the first period and led by as many as eight points twice in the second period, the last at 24-16 after a layup by Ryne Simpson. However, Mt. Juliet made a 9-0 run to take its first lead at 25-24 with under three minutes remaining.
After a trio of ties, UC’s MJ Brown hit a 3-pointer and added a field goal in the final 49 seconds to give his team a 34-29 edge at the half.
The game had two second-half ties, and Brown’s jumper with 4:31 left gave UC the lead for good at 39-37. UCHS led 47-43 after three quarters and the Bears would not get any closer than the four-point margin the rest of the way.
Union City prevented any chance of a Mt. Juliet comeback with good free throw shooting. Lavan Mosley made five straight charity tosses before a miss in the final 18 seconds and hit 7-of-8 overall in a 15-point night to join Brown as Twisters in double digit scoring. UC’s Brown finished the game with 18 points on a 7-of-17 shooting night (3-of-5 from 3-point range). Brown added three assists and three steals.
The Tornadoes finished shooting 41 percent (24-of-58) and 38 percent (8-of-21) from long distance. The Bears shot 50 percent in the first half (11-22) and finished 47 percent for the game (22-47).
Mt. Juliet (5-5) was led by Majors’ 19 points while Junta Bowman scored 14.
The Bears fall into the consolation bracket and will play Riverdale today.