When he saw that the play wasn’t unfolding as designed, Dickson County’s Jaden Davis decided just to improvise.
The decision to go “off script” resulted in a layup for Davis — and a championship for the Cougars.
In the closing seconds of Tuesday night’s District 11-AAA boys title game, Davis somehow managed to weave his way through the congestion in the lane and convert a layup that lifted No. 3-seeded Dickson County to a wild 64-63 win over No. 4-seeded Franklin, the tourney’s defending champs, in front of a packed house at Independence High School.
After the bucket by Davis — and a conference among the officials — Franklin had one final possession with four seconds remaining. But the Rebels (23-7), who had to go the length of the floor, came up empty on a desperation shot at the horn, and the huge continent of Dickson County fans enjoyed a frenzied celebration.
Davis finished with a team-high 26 points, going 11-of-15 from the floor, for Dickson County (20-10). He made five field goals in the fourth quarter, and scored the Cougars’ final seven points of the game. The shot that will be most remembered, of course, was the one that came at the end of a “busted play” on Dickson County’s final possession.
“I’d love to tell you that was the play that we had drawn up,” said Dickson County coach Hal Murrell. “Truth is, we were actually running something different. … Late in the game, (Davis) had a matchup that he could exploit a little bit, and with his athleticism, he was able to get to the rim and finish.”
Davis said he simply reacted to the situation.
“The time was running down and you’ve just got to make a play, pretty much,” he said.
The Cougars, who have enjoyed a memorable season despite the recent absence of injured senior star DJ Stacy, closed the game on an 11-4 run in the final 2:22 to erase a six-point deficit and, somewhat literally, steal the victory. Their late-game surge was fueled by their pressure defense that created a series of deflected passes and turnovers.
Franklin struggled at the foul line late in the game, going 1-of-4 in the fourth quarter while Dickson County made its late push.
Dickson County and Franklin are both headed to the Region 6-AAA tourney that starts Saturday at Overton. Dickson County will play Hunter’s Lane in the first round and Franklin, which advanced to the state tournament last season, will face Hillsboro.
The Cougars earned the win on Tuesday despite a huge performance from Franklin’s Reed Kemp, who scored a game-high 30 points, including five 3-pointers. Matt Thurman added 15 points and Aidan Smylie had 14 for the Rebels, who came into the night on a major roll. They’d won four straight games — including upsetting top-seeded Brentwood in the semifinals on Saturday — and seven of their past eight.
“We didn’t get the outcome we wanted tonight, but I still feel like we are playing our best basketball of the year,” said Franklin coach Jason Tigert. “That hasn’t changed just because we lose one at the buzzer.”
Tigert was facing his former team — he was the head coach at Dickson County before taking the Franklin job last June — for the third time this season. The teams had split their two regular-season meetings, including a hard-fought contest that Franklin won 56-51 on Feb. 14.
Tuesday’s game took things to a different level. It featured a capacity crowd, intensity galore and all the drama that anyone could have wanted.
Franklin led 33-28 at the half, but trailed 47-42 late in the third quarter before Kemp closed the frame with five quick points, on a layup and a 3-pointer, to tie the game at 47-47.
Smylie opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers to give Franklin a 53-47 lead with 6:14 to go, and the Rebels stayed in front for the next four minutes, owning a 59-53 advantage after Kemp scored on a drive with 3:22 remaining.
But Dickson County’s pressure defense began creating havoc down the stretch, with the Cougars using their press to create a series of steals that ignited the 11-4 game-ending run. Tucker Purvine, who finished with 14 points, started the flurry by finishing a pair of fast breaks, both of which started with Franklin turnovers, to pull Dickson County to within 59-57.
Kemp scored on the other end to give Franklin a 61-57 cushion with 1:46 to go, but Davis answered with a three-point play to trim the margin to one. After Franklin’s Matt Thurman scored with 1:04 remaining to give the Rebels a 63-60 lead, the Dickson County defense — and Davis — came up huge. Davis scored on a contested runner in the paint with 32 seconds remaining to cut the margin to 63-62, and then hit the game-winner moments later to complete the comeback.
“The momentum shifted huge with about two and a half or three minutes to go,” said Murrell. “There’s just a lot of ‘never quit’ in these guys.”
It was a disappointing result for the surging Rebels, but they know the path to the state tournament is still open.
“I think it’s a great learning moment,” said Kemp. “We could have done some small things better down the stretch but I think we can learn from it.”
Taylor Spierto agreed, saying the Rebels need to put the loss behind them.
The Summit boys basketball team didn’t let Saturday’s disappointment drag them down on Tuesday night.
“We’ve just got to move on to Hillsboro and not get hung up on this game,” he said.
Franklin defeated Hillsboro 49-43 on Dec. 3.
Dickson County boys 64, Franklin 63, District 11-AAA Championship
Franklin 13 20 14 16 — 63
Dickson County 15 13 19 17 — 64
FRANKLIN (63) – Taylor Spierto 4, Reed Kemp 30, Aidan Smylie 14, Matt Thurman 15.
DICKSON COUNTY (64) – Jett Carver 9, Cade Purvine 10, Jaden Davis 26, Tucker Purvine 14, Zade Holt 5.
3-pointers — Franklin 7 (Kemp 5, Smylie 2), Dickson County 6 (Davis 3, T. Purvine 2, C. Purvine). Free throws — Franklin 6-10 , Dickson County 8-9.