The Darkest Hour
Tennessee State Head Coach Dana Ford was furious. He noticed missed assignments all over the floor. The score was 20-16 and his Tigers were losing bigs on the blocks. Typically invested defenders Wayne Martin and Demontez Loman were loafing.
Were the Tigers expecting to coast? Were they slower? Definitely not.
Though the Tigers won 89-86, they managed to survive the darkest of depths.
Ordinarily, Neville Fincher gobbles up garbage minutes, but teammate’s foul trouble found him minutes. He made an enormous, albeit ignominious impact though.
It seemed like Tennessee State had salvaged a 9-point halftime deficit. But a well-earned defensive jump ball as the game clock expired netted Lipscomb a baseline play with 0.5 seconds remaining. Fincher popped out to defend Charles Smith. Fincher did the unthinkable. He fouled a jump shot as time expired. Though the officials had to check the video replay to be sure, it was indeed a pre-buzzer foul. Smith made one of the two free throws.
The sleepy-eyed Fincher sulked his way to the locker room, down 43-33.
Tennessee State just suffered too many unforced turnovers on the other end. Marcus Roper caught the ball out of bounds. Tahjere McCall made a couple lazy passes. Most of the post feeds were timid or obvious.
Lipscomb came out in a 2-3 zone. And they were well prepared to handle the penetration of Tigers’ leading scorer Keron DeShields.
DeShields made just one of his first seven shots.
Keron was called for a travel on the wing. Immediately he was whistled for a technical foul. He was pulled by his coach.
It got worse.
Sensing the importance of the moment Coach Ford inserted Demontez Loman and Keron DeShields with 2 fouls, with 5:00 to play in the first half. It didn’t help much.
DeShields was getting grabbed as he waded through the forest to the lane.
DeShields never found his typical touch. He was unable to effectively slash and the outside shot was not close.
Loman only collected a single rebound in his first nine game minutes.
Roper hit a much-needed 3-pointer to take the aggression out of the Visitor’s zone. Unforunately, Garrison Mathews answered immediately. To beat Lipscomb you have to score and score often. The Tigers were patient, but not efficient in the opening half. Roper retaliated with a second consecutive triple.
“He kind of kept us afloat,” said Head Coach Dana Ford. “We were out there in the water without a boat. He hasn’t shot it very well lately. He is the guy we keep telling to shoot no matter what.”
Sporadically Wayne Martin would spark to life, like a Nutcracker, enliven the crowd, and then disappear again. The tempo and the collapsing zone defense did not suit his style of play. But he did capitalize on the few opportunities he took.
Xavier Richards was inspired in his breakout game. Richards defended the outside shooting of Lipscomb. He gave the game more life with a slashing finish and1 midway through the second half.
The brightest of bright spots came from Tahjere McCall, the savior who cast light upon the hopeless mess and revived a dying day.