If you think the finish of Monday night’s national championship football game between Clemson and Alabama was exciting, you should have been at Notre Dame’s Phifer Gymnasium Tuesday night.
The stakes might not have been quite as high and there weren’t millions of viewers watching across the world on television, but the emotional outburst was similar as Jarrett Lynn’s 3 at the buzzer provided the margin of victory for the visiting Sequatchie County Indians in a 55-54 thriller.
It was a dandy high school game to watch for sure and it's too bad that either team had to take a loss, but this one goes to the guys from Dunlap
Facing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a key District 7-AA contest, the Indians led most of the way until the Irish got hot in the second half.
A 13-point halftime lead by the Indians had been erased by the end of the third quarter, setting the stage for an incredible final eight minutes.
Kolby McGowan scored on a drive down the lane with 31 seconds left to give Notre Dame a 53-52 lead and he added the first of two free throws 20 seconds later for a two-point margin.
Sequatchie County coach Jason Smith called a timeout with 11.5 seconds remaining to set up his team’s final play, which was designed to put the ball in Lynn’s hand.
It was a helter-skelter finish in those final seconds as the Indians missed at least three shots before Lynn grabbed a loose ball and fired a prayer toward the bucket as the horn sounded. His shot hit nothing but net as the Indians erupted from their bench in celebration.
“That final play was set for me to take the last shot, but I didn’t think I was going to get the ball,” the slender 16-year-old junior said in the calm of the winning team's dressing room.
“I’ve had a few big shots in the past to tie the score, but had never had a game-winner before tonight. I was feeling it during pre-game warm-ups and I knew it was going in when it left my hand,” he explained.
Smith was just happy things ended the way they did.
“We built a nice lead in the first half, but started making bad decisions offensively in the second and Notre Dame got hot. We just didn’t take care of the ball as we were impatient at times, but we still had more than 11 seconds before that final possession.
“We wanted Jarrett to get the final shot as he’s a good shooter and I’m just thankful he made it. We knew that Notre Dame would be hungry and would play us close, but it’s huge for us to get a district win here in this gym where it’s awfully hard to play and win,” Smith added after his team had improved to 10-4 overall and 3-0 in District 7-AA.
C.J. Greer and McGowan had buckets to start the game for a 4-0 Notre Dame lead in the first 90 seconds, but the Indians responded with 10 straight points and the lead was 18-10 when the first quarter ended.
Akil Sledge scored on a short jumper in the lane with 4:05 to play in the second to get the Fighting Irish within seven at 22-15, but the Indians finished the quarter on a 6-0 run for a 28-15 lead at halftime.
Greer only had two points in the first half, but he had the hot hand in the second with a dozen in the third quarter alone to get his team back in contention, which included a putback with three seconds to knot the score at 36-36 with one quarter remaining.
His 3 to start the final quarter gave Notre Dame its first lead since early in the game at 39-38 and another long one from Peter Berce with 3:30 to play put the Irish up 48-47.
Greer’s steal and layup with 1:05 to play made it 51-50 before Tanner French gave his team the lead with two free throws 17 seconds later.
McGowan then put his team ahead for the last time with his drive down the lane and he hit the first of two free throws for a two-point lead, setting the stage for Lynn’s last-second heroics.
It’s been a tough start for Notre Dame and coach J.P. Nerbun, who are now 3-13 overall and 0-3 in 7-AA.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well in the first half and that hurt, so that was why we spent most of our halftime break on the floor shooting. We were able to make some big shots in the second half and I thought our defense was great for the most part, but this is a deflating defeat.
“I love our resilience and our willingness to fight to the bitter end, but I told them I loved them and we’ll just come back out here tomorrow and keep working,” the coach said.
Noah Bartley, who sparked Sequatchie’s fast start with seven points in the first quarter, finished with 20 to match his jersey number, despite picking up his fourth personal foul with just under five minutes to play.
Lynn was next with 13 while French matched his jersey number with a dozen.
Greer had 22 points to lead Notre Dame while McGowan followed with 13 and Berce with 12.
The Indians also won the battle of the boards by an unofficial 34-21 count. Bartley had 10 lead lead Sequatchie while Braden Lawson snagged eight. Greer and Sledge were tops for Notre Dame with four each.
SEQUATCHIE CO. GIRLS 50, NOTRE DAME 41: The Lady Indians had a slim 30-29 lead when the fourth quarter began, but they sank 11 of 17 free throws in that final stanza to hold off Notre Dame’s comeback with the nine-point win.
Improving to 10-4 overall and 1-2 in 7-AA, Ireland Burch scored 19 points to lead the way for the winners. Gracie Tate and Jennifer Tholken were also in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively, while Jordan Smith scored the other eight.
Laura Rabuano and Mackenzie Johnson both scored 11 points for Notre Dame, now 8-10 overall and 0-3 in 7-AA. Kate Ford was next with nine points.
SEQUATCHIE CO. 12 8 10 20 -- 50
NOTRE DAME 14 7 8 12 -- 41
SEQUATCHIE CO. (50) – Smith 8, Longson, Tate 13, Burch 19, Tholken 10.\
NOTRE DAME (41) – Sheppard 1, Brown, Raabe, Ford 9, Sims 2, Rabuano 11, Bombassi 2, Siler 5, Johnson 11.
3-POINT GOALS: Sequatchie Co. none; Notre Dame 2 (Rabuano, Siler).
SEQUATCHIE CO. 18 10 8 19 -- 55
NOTRE DAME 10 5 21 18 -- 54
SEQUATCHIE CO. (55) – Lynn 13, French 12, Bartley 20, Hudson 1, Campbell 4, Ba. Lawson 2, Br. Lawson 3.
NOTRE DAME (54) – Ensley, McGowan 13, Greer 22, Sledge 4, Cochran, Lewis 1, Suarez, Corbitt, Beard 2, Berce 12.
3-POINT GOALS: Sequatchie Co. 6 (Lynn 3, French 2, Bartley); Notre Dame 9 (McGowan, Greer 4, Berce 4).
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)