NASHVILLE - For a while during tonight's DII-AA state title game at David Lipscomb University, it looked like Brentwood Academy was going to win its fifth straight title and ninth overall.
Brentwood led Briarcrest 37-30 at the half and the Saints had multiple players in foul trouble. That predicament had prevented Briacrest from getting the ball inside.
That all changed in the third quarter.
Omari Thomas (14 points) and Marcellus Brigham (18) started doing some damage in the paint early in the third quarter, the momentum shifted and the Saints pulled out a 65-54 win, claiming their second state title and first since 2008.
"That (getting the ball inside) was supposed to the emphasis the whole time, but we had a lot of foul trouble," head coach John Harrington said. "We still kept trying to get it inside … We had adversity staring us in the face down seven points. Adversity has been an emphasis for us all year. What are you going to do? Lay down or slap it in the face?"
The Saints (30-2) chose the latter.
Thanks to Thomas, Brigham and Rodney Newsom, the lead was cut to one by the end of the third quarter. Michael Malone scored with 4:28 left in the game to put the Saints ahead 49-47 and the Saints never gave up the lead.
Kennedy Chandler, a Mr. Basketball nominee and the tournament MVP who finished with a game-high 20 points, hit a pair of free throws moments later to push the lead to six. Thomas, who was 8 for 8 from the line, hit four more after that and the game was no longer in doubt.
"I was lucky to go 2 for 10 early the season," Thomas said with a smile.
"We have some tough kids," Harrington said, "some good old tough Memphis kids."
His teammates said they weren't worried about the halftime deficit.
"Even though we were down seven, I knew we were going to fight back," said Chandler.
Said Malone: "We know what coach expects of us. We just wanted to come out and make him proud."
Brigham said, "I think our brotherhood really brings us together. We all play for each other."
This was Briarcrest's 15th trip to the state tournament. The team, made up largely of the same players as last year, made this one count, despite facing the four-time defending champs.
"I didn't feel as though we were underdogs," Thomas said. "Like coach said yesterday, we were going to make history either way. We were going to be the ones to stop it or be the one losing the fifth one to them. We were blessed to be the ones to stop it."