TJCA survives Highland Tech

Feb. 19, 2014 @ 09:46 PM

The game wasn't pretty, but it doesn't have to be in the postseason. Thomas Jefferson (16-6,11-2 SPC) gutted out a 50-41 win over Highland Tech to advance to the semi-finals of the Southern Piedmont Conference Tournament Wednesday night at Cool Springs.

TJCA will face the Community School of Davidson/ Bessemer City winner today in Cherryville.

"I'll take it," said a relieved TJCA head coach Ken Hines Sr. "This time of year it's not about style points. It's all about getting the win by any means necessary. We have to do it again tomorrow."

TJCA grabbed an early 7-5 lead on a deep 3 by Truth Freeland but Thomas Nieminen answered with a 3 of his own before Freeland canned another three. The teams continued to trade baskets until the end of the quarter with the Gryphons leading 15-12.

The Gryphons opened the second quarter by crashing the boards. Efrim Borders and Chris Mintz garnered putbacks to increase the lead to 19-12. Highland Tech responded by taking the air out of the ball in their motion offense.

Nieminen hit a midrange jumper to cut the lead to 20-19 before TJCA came out of their zone and began to press.  That resulted in an 8-1 run just before the half, highlighted by a Jaylon Simmons 3 to give the home team a 28-20 lead at the break.

"There offense really didn't bother us," Hines said."We just played poor man-to-man defense. That's why we went to a zone."

TJCA picked up three personal fouls less than a minute to start the third quarter. Dominque Dee hit a 3 for the Rams in another low-scoring frame.

Mason Fenner hit a layup and Freeland hit a 3, but Highland Tech would not go away. Josh Crawford grabbed a steal and a layup at the quarter with the Rams within striking distance, 34-29.

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair. Bronson Short pulled the Rams to within 34-31. The teams traded baskets for much of the rest of the quarter, but Simmons hit a fall-away jumper and Borders drove to the basket for a score. Nick Mintz then iced the game from the foul line as the Gryphons survived 50-41.

Nick Mintz led TJCA with 15 points while Nieminen had 12 for Highland Tech.