By Steve Williams
Christian Academy of Knoxville’s basketball team didn’t have the outcome it wanted in the TSSAA state tournament, but you’ve got to give the Warriors credit for doing it their way.
CAK bowed to Chattanooga Brainerd 76-52 in the Class AA quarterfinals Thursday at Murfreesboro. The loss ended the Warriors’ season at 23-11. The quick, athletic Panthers (29-5) moved on to the semifinal round.
In a nutshell, CAK Coach Shane Wells said, “They really just took us out of our rhythm.”
Having to rush their shots, the Warriors, who have relied on 3-point shooting, made only 6 of 26 attempts (23.1 percent) behind the arc. Coach Wells said his team had been connecting on “close to 40 percent” this season.
Wells said he had been talking with a coaching friend recently and former UCLA coaching great John Wooden’s philosophy was brought up in the conversation.
“We were talking about Coach Wooden and he always said to be true to yourself,” pointed out Wells.
“We didn’t want to change our way coming down here. We had to be who we are. Maybe it’s not the perfect thing to do against a team like Chattanooga Brainerd, but we can’t change who we are.”
Hunter Reynolds and Isaiah Sulack each managed to connect on only 2 of 9 shots from 3-point range.
The Warriors also committed 18 turnovers at the hands of the quick Brainerd defense.
In the losing cause, Reynolds scored 14 points, Turner Helton 11 and Turner Heitzman 10.
Brainerd, which shot 54.2 percent from the field, was led by Dajuonta Ross (22 points).
A jumper by Helton gave CAK a 9-8 lead at the 5:55 mark of the first period, but the Panthers scored seven straight points to take the lead for good. A 3-point basket by David High pulled the Warriors within three (17-14) at the end of the opening period.
Sulack’s 3-point basket cut Brainerd’s lead to 22-21 midway through the second period. The Panthers, however, responded with a 9-0 run.
Reynolds’ 3-pointer pulled the Warriors within seven (43-36) with 2:58 left in the third period. His basket cut Brainerd’s margin to nine (60-51) with 3:23 to go in the game. The Panthers, however, closed with a 14-1 run.
GCA FALLS: Grace Christian Academy battled Van Buren down to the wire before being eliminated in Class A 64-60. A potential tying 3-point attempt by freshman Grant Ledford with six seconds left missed the mark as the Rams (22-12) came up short.
Ledford finished with a game-high 24 points. Zack Walker chipped in 16 points and six rebounds.
Van Buren (28-5) had a big edge at the free throw line, sinking 23 of 28 shots to GCA’s 6 of 11. Caden Mills paced the Eagles with 27 points. He was 12 of 15 at the line.