By: Jake Hood
The Mt. Juliet Golden Bears Boys Basketball claimed their third straight District 9AAA Tournament Championship on Feb. 25, this time in a 57-47 bout with Station Camp.
The Bears were ready to dominate in the district tournament, as they housed TSSAA AAA Mr. Basketball Finalist Will Pruitt. They were also ready to avenge their only district loss after falling to Station Camp earlier in the season. The Bison were red-hot after defeating Beech in the semifinal. The stage was set for a championship between two teams that split in the regular season.
The beginning of the game resulted in only a few points through the first minutes of play, but the Bears eventually found their offensive spark with a pair of threes and another basket in the first quarter. Gage Wells also managed 5 points in the first quarter, and Mo Ruttlen hit a free throw. Bison star Kavon Blankenship was responsible for all of Station Camp’s first quarter points, knocking down a basket and a pair of free throws. This put the score at 14-4 in favor of the Bears after 8 minutes of play.
The game intensified in the second quarter as Station Camp mounted a comeback. Eli Thurston shined in the second, amounting to 9 points. This gave the Bison a spark to catch up with the Bears, but it was superb defense that narrowed the game. Blankenship, Thurston, and truly all of the Station Camp floor, played lockdown defense on Pruitt and the Mt. Juliet offense. Pruitt only found a layup, and Riggs Abner managed a three. Charles Clark went 1-2 from the charity stripe, and that rounded out the Bears’ scoring. This put the score tied at 20 as both teams headed into the locker room.
The game stayed tight throughout the third quarter. The Bears only scored 10 points in the third but had the lead for the majority of the quarter. The Bison struggled for most of the third, but they were able to launch off a few shots. Cameron Gerlach notched 5 points, and Kheller Die’ tallied a single basket. Tyler Moore went 1-2 from the free throw line in the quarter, but the Bison remained down until the final shot. Thurston threw up a three as time expired, and he hit the buzzer beater to put Station Camp up 31-30 going into the final quarter.
Pruitt heated up in the fourth quarter, filling up every slot of the scorebook. He put up 12 of Mt. Juliet’s 27 fourth-quarter points, as Abner, Clark, and Isaac Thompson combined for the other 15. The Bears jumped out to a massive lead, putting Station Camp in panic mode. Blankenship notched 7 points, as he was followed by Thurston with 5 and Gerlach with 4. Many of these points came in the final minute, as the Bison were not able to finish a comeback, leaving Mt. Juliet with a 57-47 victory.
Mt. Juliet claimed its third consecutive district title, while Will Pruitt had a phenomenal night. He finished with 24 points on 9-16 shooting. He was followed by Thompson with 13, Clark with 9, and Wells and Abner each with 5. For Station Camp, Eli Thurston led with 17 points, followed by Blankenship with 13. Gerlach managed 9 points, Die’ had 4, Jack Gold managed a three, and Tyler Moore had a single point.
Pruitt’s night was not over, as he had many accolades for the district. The All District and Tournament Teams are as follows:
Mt. Juliet: Troy Allen (District Coach of the Year), Charles Clark, Gage Wells, Will Pruitt (District 9AAA MVP)
Beech: Drew Page, Luke Fleming, Kaleb Powell, Kristian Shaw
Station Camp: Kavon Blankenship, Eli Thurston, Cameron Gerlach
Lebanon: Gaven Reasonover, Davis Greene
Portland: Mitchell Eagle
All District Tournament
Mt. Juliet: Riggs Abner, Gage Wells, Will Pruitt (District 9AAA Tournament MVP)
Beech: Jyquale Matthews
Station Camp: Eli Thurston, Kavon Blankenship
Gallatin: Beljwok Adaing
The top four teams, Mt. Juliet, Station Camp, Beech and Gallatin, move on to battle Kenwood, Henry County, Clarksville, and Clarksville Northwest, respectively.