By Kim West
TANNER — Due to the football team’s deep playoff run, the Tanner boys basketball team has played twice as many times as it has practiced this season.
But the low number of team workouts didn’t prevent top-ranked Tanner from stampeding fifth-ranked Madison Academy 62-36 in a showdown of ranked teams in front of a packed home gym Friday night.
“I think we just came out and played about as good as we have all year,” said Tanner coach Chris Whitt, whose team clinched the Class 2A, Area 15 title on Tuesday. “We’ve been looking for that game — we had six games in eight days this past week — and we needed a break.
“So the last two days we hadn’t done much, and then today they came in fresh. I’ve been waiting on them to shoot the ball well, and we shot the ball well tonight.”
Seven of the Rattlers’ nine players played in the 2A state championship football game on Dec. 6, which prompted Tanner to start its basketball season Dec. 11. Madison Academy, which lost star point guard Kerryon Johnson to season-ending shoulder surgery Thursday, began playing Nov. 19 even though the Mustangs’ football team played in the 3A title game Dec. 5.
“We’ve had 17 games now, and we’ve had about eight practices because of football,” Whitt said. “I’ve asked a lot of them because they’ve gone from Aug. 1 to winning the state championship in football to playing every other night in basketball but they’ve responded extremely well.”
The hard-court matchup was highly anticipated since both schools are ranked, and the Tanner football team defeated Madison Academy 13-7 on Aug. 30. Both football squads went on to win state championships in their respective classifications.
The combination of relentless pressure from the Rattlers’ man-to-man defense and the loss of Johnson, who is believed to have torn his shoulder labrum during football season, left Madison Academy with limited options on offense.
Tanner’s Greg Maclin was assigned to guard Langford and held the quick-scoring guard to a quiet 16-point performance, including only five points in the second half. Maclin had a stellar all-around game with a game-high 19 points — including four 3-pointers — 10 rebounds, four steals and three blocks.
“We defended extremely well because Josh Langford is a really good player, and he’s capable of scoring 35 on you every night,” Whitt said. “I thought Greg Maclin holding him to just 16 was a really good defensive job, and I think they only had 14 points the whole second half.”
The game featured five ties and three lead changes during the first half as momentum swung back and forth before Tanner seized control in the second quarter. With the scored tied at 17, the Rattlers went on a 25-7 run that spanned the end of the second quarter and nearly the entire third period. During that stretch, Maclin knocked down a pair of treys from the left corner shortly before halftime and drained a pull-up 3-pointer and another trey off an assist from Jon-Jon Fletcher in the third.
During the run, Madison Academy switched from a 2-3 zone to a man-to-man defense and also used a full-court press against the Rattlers. The move backfired as Tanner harassed the Mustangs into 12 turnovers during the second and third quarters and led by 21 points heading into the final period.
“In basketball sometimes you’ve got to gamble and take risks, and sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t,” Whitt said. “Tonight we just responded with some easy buckets off their pressure.”
Eight Tanner players scored, including Jace Haggermaker with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and 10 points from Fred Rich, whose 3-point play in the lane pushed the lead to 25 points early in the fourth. Bubba Smith scored eight points, while Desmond Love added four points and four assists and Fletcher had two points and two assists off the bench.
Nick Haas converted three 3s and finished with 11 points for Madison Academy.
The Mustangs will host Tanner at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2.
“They had a big loss with Kerryon Johnson but they’re a good, fundamental team, and I’m sure we’ll have our hands full when we go over there in a few weeks,” Whitt said.
Tanner, the defending county champions, will host the Clements-Ardmore winner at 8 p.m. Thursday during the second round of the Limestone County Basketball Tournament.
Madison Academy, which reached the 3A Final Four last season, will host Westminster Christian in area play following the girls’ game Tuesday.
Madison Academy 40, Tanner 23
The Class 3A No. 5 Madison Academy girls basketball team used a stingy defense to power past 2A Tanner Friday night.
Madison Academy (13-7) held Tanner (6-11) to seven first-half points and led 21-7 at the break and 34-12 after three quarters.
The Mustangs have played eight of 20 games this season against 6A schools, including a 57-47 loss to defending state champion Sparkman and wins against Vestavia Hills, James Clemens and Buckhorn.
Tanner also has played a stiff schedule, with eight of 17 games against higher-classification schools, including 6A Austin and James Clemens. The Rattlers defeated county rivals Elkmont and Ardmore earlier this month and nearly upset West Limestone in a 44-42 loss on Jan. 8.
Madison Academy’s Sierra Jones had a game-high 16 points, and fellow junior Imani Kyser added 11.
Sophomore guard Kelsey Houston led Tanner with 12 points.
Tanner hosts Ardmore in the opening round of the Limestone County Basketball Tournament at 5:30 p.m. Monday, while Madison Academy hosts Westminster Christian Academy Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in area play.