JONESBOROUGH — “We owe them one,’’ Dobyns-Bennett coach Charlie Morgan told his team before the game.
Debt settled. D-B 76, Daniel Boone 72.
The Indians (21-11) mounted a 12-point lead and rejected a late surge by Boone (21-10) Thursday night to win the Region 1-AAA boys basketball tournament championship.
Both teams have qualified for the TSSAA sectionals. D-B hosts Knox West and Boone travels to Bearden for games on Monday night. The winners will earn passage to the state tournament at Murfreesboro.
Bearden defeated West 55-50 for the Region 2 title.
Atoning for their loss to Boone in the District 1 finals, the Indians had their war paint on this time.
Tyler Ailshie, Juwan Johnson and Darius Davis did most of the scoring and Adam Denison was a force on the boards as D-B took charge of the game with a rumbling fast-break attack.
Ailshie scored 24 points, Johnson 16 and Davis 15. Denison took care of the rebounding when the outcome was hanging in the balance.
D-B led 45-33 at one juncture but Boone, a never-say-die team, refused to concede. In fact, the win wasn’t clinched until Ailshie, with D-B on top 75-72, rolled in a free throw with 5.8 seconds remaining to close the scoring.
The Tribe was ahead 72-63 until Boone made an eleventh-hour bid in the last 30 seconds. Kevin Connell’s 3-point shot, another 3-pointer by Travis Keever and Keever’s three consecutive free throws drew the Trailblazers within one possession of tying the score.
Keever made a one-man charge at D-B late in the game and finished with 23 points.
“Our transition game was the difference,’’ Morgan said. “We were able to push the ball downfloor and get some easy layups. Derrick Steele got all the way to the basket four times. He is quick and some of our other players are fast. There’s a difference.
“For his size, Darius does well at swiveling around and getting the ball off for layups. Adam’s play was big. He got some critical rebounds and that’s what wins championships.’’
The Indians, since their opening game, have improved light years.
“This team has come to practice every day, listened to what we’ve told them and responded,’’ Morgan said. “They probably knew they weren’t as talented as some other D-B teams. The only two things you can control are attitude and effort.’’
Davis and Steele spearheaded D-B’s aggressive defense on the perimeter.
“We wanted to get the ball and move it down the court fast,’’ Davis said. “Boone plays to the end, no matter what the score is. (The Trailblazers) never quit.’’
Fatigue appeared to have set in on Boone in the second quarter.
“Matt Baker, my assistant coach, told me our conditioning was going to kick in because they were flat,’’ Morgan said.
Ailshie, as in other postseason games, seemed to be everywhere. He fired in a 25-footer to answer a Boone 3-pointer in the third quarter.
“We didn’t have anything going at the time, so I just turned it loose,’’ he said. “We passed the ball really well. Halfway through the first quarter, we started playing better defense.’’
Boone hit only 15 of 27 free throw attempts.
“That’s too many misses,’’ Trailblazers coach Ryan Arnold said. “These kids will be shooting free throws tomorrow and I won’t have to make them.
“We manhandled (the Indians) in the district game and they were ready to be physical tonight. Charlie is a great coach. He’s gotten so much out of those kids, and they deserved to win tonight.’’