UNIONVILLE — Madness and magical moments in basketball are usually reserved for the month of March, but Tucker McGee’s 22-point performance off the bench for the Cascade Champions in …
UNIONVILLE — Madness and magical moments in basketball are usually reserved for the month of March, but Tucker McGee’s 22-point performance off the bench for the Cascade Champions in their 73-54 victory in the Region 4-AA semifinals on Tuesday night was remarkable.
After Whites Creek (14-14) cut Cascade’s double-digit lead to five points late in the third quarter, McGee slid into the corner and knocked down a three-pointer as time expired to give the Champions (27-5) a 46-38 lead going into the fourth quarter.
A few minutes later he added to his magical night by going on a 9-2 solo run over a minute and a half span that sent shockwaves across the gym and extended their lead to 21 points.
McGee played limited varsity minutes for the Champions before the regular season ended, but has seen those minutes increase over the last few postseason games with his quality play.
“He’s been a good player all season, but has had to play junior varsity because we have a lot of numbers on this team,” Champions head coach Chris Lawson said.
“A lot of credit to him for working hard for this moment. He’s had an opportunity these last three or four games and he’s steadily produced over that span. All season we’ve had somebody step up and make plays when we needed them to and tonight it was Tucker McGee.”
Despite being heavily pressured by the Cobras’ defense from the opening tip, the Champions were able to navigate their way to the painted area for the majority of their baskets which led to an 8-2 run at the end of the half for a 31-15 advantage.
Isaac McElroy led the way with 10 first half points while Lucas Clanton and McGee added eight and six respectively.
“We knew they were going to pressure us, run through guys, and try to trap us,” Lawson said.
“We worked on getting the ball to the middle and then turning and finding the open man. I thought our guys did a great job of that. Time after time we were able to get the ball up the floor for layups with ease because they put all of their pressure on the other side of the court.”
Cascade held onto their double-digit lead until the three minute and 35 second mark of the third quarter when Tyrone Robertson got to the rim for the Cobras to make it 37-28.
It was the first time Whites Creek was within single-digits of the lead since the minute and 50 second mark of the first quarter.
After the two traded baskets over the next few possessions, the Cobras hit a layup and an old-fashioned three-point play to make it a 43-38 game before McGee hit his buzzer-beating shot to close the third frame.
Cascade got hot again to open the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run before McGee went on his 9-2 tear, and it was all but over for the final four minutes.
Robertson knocked down three consecutive three-pointers in a minute span after McGee’s run, but the Champions answered again and cruised to the finish line.
“It’s a different style than we’ve seen most of the season, but our guys know what to expect and how to play,” Lawson said. “Other than a few times, we did a good job of handling and taking care of the basketball.”
The Champions stamped their ticket to the Region 4-AA Championship with the win, and will face the Pearl Cohn Firebirds in a rematch of last season’s region semifinals.
Pearl Cohn upset East Nashville in this year’s semifinals to hand them their first loss of the season, but Lawson and the Champions are no stranger to a challenge.
“Everybody you play at this point of the season is a good team,” he said. “Our mindset is on winning a region championship. We’re going to put a gameplan in, play hard, and do the absolute best we can to do that.”
Cascade 17 14 15 27 — 73
Whites Creek 6 9 23 16 — 54
Cascade: Tucker McGee 22, Isaac McElroy 21, Lucas Clanton 12, Jayden Gulick 9, Saebyn Burris 4, Jackson Davis 2, Thomas Gentry 2, Eli Elliot 1.
Whites Creek: Tyrone Robertson 21, Kemontae Daly 13, Kevin Wiggins 11, Malachi Benton 5, Eric Bryson 3, Darron Jennings 1.
3-point goals: Whites Creek (6): Robertson 5, Daly; Cascade (3): McGee 2, Gulick.
Halftime score: Cascade 31, Whites Creek 15.