High School Basketball

Hoops: GCA cagers drop regular season finales, will hit the road in district tournament

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Hoops – MTCS at Grace Christian Academy

Dean Bechman 

See IMAGES for full photo gallery from both contests. 

Grace Christian Academy suffered a sour ending to the regular season Thursday night at home near Leiper’s Fork.

The Middle Tennessee Christian School basketball teams picked up a pair of Division II-A Middle Region District 3 wins on the road with the Cougar boys racing out to a 78-56 win, while the MTCS girls claimed a 49-27 victory.

The district tournament begins next week.

Middle Tennessee Christian School boys 78, Grace Christian Academy 56

After finding some rhythm in the past few games, the GCA boys matched that higher level of play in the first quarter against the Cougars, but not much afterward.

Mason McKnatt, who entered the game coming off back-to-back 40-point outings, scored 10 points in the opening frame as GCA closed trailing just 17-16. He drilled one 3-pointer from close to 30-feet out near the end of the frame as the two teams traded buckets.

However, MTCS opened the second quarter by scoring the first 11 points and didn’t let up as they outscored the hosts 27-9 for a comfortable 44-25 halftime advantage.

“I thought MTCS picked up their defensive intensity a little bit and we didn’t handle that well,” GCA coach Len McKnatt said. “I thought we lost our poise a little bit and didn’t execute like we had early in the game.

“We felt like we were in a good spot after the first quarter, but the second quarter got away from us.”

MTCS stayed with their pressure in the second half and coach McKnatt’s son, Mason, sat the entire half after aggravating an ankle injury as the Lions lost their leading scorer.

Ashton Kelley stepped up and closed with 15 points to lead the Lions, while McKnatt had 12 and Jackson Sleeper eight. Kelley had four 3-pointers.

Both Braden Smith and Brock Culpepper scored 24 to lead MTCS.

The GCA boys were coming off a 69-66 loss to one of the top teams in the district, Columbia Academy, on Tuesday.

The Lions will play Wednesday in the district tournament quarterfinals in a potential rematch with Columbia Academy. The Bulldogs and Christ Presbyterian Academy are going to settle the No. 2 seed in the district with. a coin flip Friday. GCA will travel to coin-flip winner.

“It’s a fun time of year,” coach McKnatt said. “Everybody goes back to 0-0 … and we feel like we have played some of our best basketball of the season recently.”

Middle Tennessee Christian School girls 49, Grace Christian Academy 27

In the early game, both teams struggled to find their offense out of the gate, especially the home-standing Lady Lions. GCA managed just 10 first-half points on three made field goals.

“I think our game plan was fine, but we just missed too many shots early,” GCA coach Tony McLeod said. “We gain a lot of confidence when we are making shots and we didn’t hit those early and it shook us.

“We can’t let that affect the rest of our game, though.”

Leading 23-10 at the break, MTCS blew the game open with a 24-point third quarter and consistent defensive pressure to open up the transition game.

Sydney Cooper scored 10 of her 14 points in the third to lead the charge for the Lady Cougars.

“They played a very intense third quarter and kind of pushed us around a bit,” McLeod said. “They are a great team, but the good thing is we can bounce back and face them again.”

The two teams were going to potentially have their own coin-flip for home-court advantage if GCA had won, but with the MTCS victory assured a home playoff game to open the district tournament Tuesday for the Lady Cougars in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup against GCA.

GCA, which joined the Division II-A league this season, also fell at MTCS in the first meeting, but McLeod said his team will be ready.

“We have some time to regroup and can bounce back,” he said.

Raychel Calvert paced the GCA girls with 11 points. 

Middle Tennessee Christian School boys 78, Grace Christian Academy 56

MTCS – 17 27 20 14 – 78

GCA – 16 9 13 18 – 56

MTCS (78) – Jack Jubenville 8, Braden Smith 24, Jack Howell 2, Brock Culpepper 24, Ross Prosser 3, Andrew Adams 10, Houston Batey 2, Adam Hickerson 1, Ethan Adams 2, Gaines Hassin 2.

GCA (56) – Dean Bechman 6, Ashton Kelley 15, Will Beasley 6, Dawson Bechman 2, Trace Phillips 5, Mason McKnatt 12, Jackson Sleeper 8, Jake Prince 2.

3-pointers – MTCS 8 (Smith 4, Jubenville 2, Prosser, A. Adams); GCA 10 (Kelley 4, McKnatt 2, Sleeper 2, D. Bechman, Phillips). Total Fouls – MTCS 13; GCA 16. Fouled Out – Jubenville, Beasely. Technical Fouls – Jubenville.

Middle Tennessee Christian School girls 49, Grace Christian Academy 27

MTCS – 17 6 24 2 – 49

GCA – 8 2 10 7 – 27

MTCS (49) – Kiersten Hudson 7, Raegan Atkinson 4, Mia Goins 1, May Smith 3, Sarah Wisnowski 11, Sydney Cooper 14, Amaria Gillespie 9.

GCA (27) – Anna Smith 4, Adyson Wolf 1, Carlie Mason 3, Audrey Sanders 2, Raychel Calvert 11.

3-pointers – MTCS 4 (Hudson, Atkinson, Smith, Gillespie). Total Fouls – MTCS 12; GCA 15. Fouled Out – None.

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