By Jonathan Deal
Tanner’s bid at a third state championship in four years ended Tuesday with a 61-52 loss to Elba in the 2A semifinals. The defending champs couldn’t overcome a size advantage for Elba, struggling to score or rebound in the paint.
Elba outrebounded Tanner 50-32 and limited the Rattlers to 28 percent shooting from the field. Despite those numbers, Tanner hung with Elba until the very end. The Rattlers made one run after another in the second half.
In the end, it was free-throws that decided the game. Elba hit 17 of 24 free throws in the second half while Tanner made 3 of 8 attempts.
Jonathon Fletcher put up All-Tournament numbers in the loss. The junior scored 27 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter. Fletcher also started the game hot, with 10 first quarter points to keep pace with Elba in the opening quarter.
Fletcher hit 5 of 12 3-point attempts. Tanner shot 7 of 27 from 2-point range as a team.
Tanner trailed two points at halftime, but soon fell behind 34-26 in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Down by eight with a minute and a half remaining, Tanner closed the quarter on a 6-2 run to pull with 38-34 entering the fourth quarter.
Desmond Love’s jump shot to start the fourth got Tanner within a single possession, but that was as close it would come. While Tanner’s full-court press forced turnovers, the Rattlers were unable to take advantage in the fourth.
Tanner’s press forced 22 turnovers, but scored just seven points off those chances.
Elba finally broke the press and took a double-digit with three minutes to play that proved too much for Tanner to overcome.
Elba’s big men caused Tanner throughout the game. Cobe Goosby scored 23 points and grabbed 17 rebounds while Nicholas Green had 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Desmond Love and Ibrahim White each had 10 points for Tanner. In his final game for Tanner, Love also had nine rebounds.
The loss ends the season for Tanner (20-9). It was the Rattlers’ third state semifinals appearance in the last four years.