CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – When Northeast was in the driver’s seat late in the game, coach Tommy Stanley wanted to make sure one of his best free-throw shooters would have the ball in his hands since Henry County would start fouling in order to stop the clock.
Everything went according to plan Friday night as Jontaè Brown was sent to the free-throw line four times for eight shots in the fourth quarter. Brown made six of those shots down the stretch and helped the Eagles (13-12) win in the first round of the District 10-AAA tournament, beating Kenwood 50-38 Friday night.
The district tournament victory not only put an end to Henry County’s season, but it gave the Eagles a Region 5-AAA tournament berth next week. Northeast will now shift focus to the district semifinals where the Eagles will face Kenwood at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Clarksville and Northwest will face off in the 5:30 semifinal game Saturday. Both games will be played at Kenwood High School.
With plenty of weight on his shoulders to make the free throws, Brown said he didn’t ponder the importance of Friday night’s game so that he could avoid overthinking the situation. He treated the final minutes as if it were any given night.
“Free throws win the game,” Brown said. “You have to make the free throws. After all, they’re free. You have to take advantage of what you’re being given.”
The Eagles began passing the ball around the perimeter with two minutes left and a seven-point lead to kill time. Northeast drew the seven fouls necessary to put themselves at the free-throw line, and the Eagles made sure Brown would have the ball in his hands once Henry County (8-17) started fouling.
“That was all by plan,” Northeast coach Tommy Stanley said. “It’s either him or Jaylon Tharpe we want at the line. But it was Jontaè who we were able to get the ball to tonight. We played a defensive lineup, but obviously you want to get the ball to Jontaè’s hands in the fourth quarter.”
The Patriots came as close as six points with less than a minute remaining, but Brown’s free throws, along with a big half-court steal and assist by D’Andre Cross to Anterrian Cheatham, put Henry County out of contention.
Stanley said he had a simple message for his Northeast team before the game.
“They knew what to expect. We knew what to expect,” Stanley said. “The team that plays better defense and executes will be the team that wins.”
Stanley quantified good defense for his team by telling the players that they had to limit their Henry County opponents to 10 points per quarter.
“They actually succeeded in doing better than that,” Stanley noted, referring to the Patriots’ 38 points on the board.
Northeast 50, Henry County 58
HCHS 10 7 11 10 – 38
NHS 13 12 10 15 – 50
Henry County: Conner Boley 19, Zach Word 8, Josef Neumair 7, Jamison Hayes 4
Northeast: Jontae’ Brown 13, J’Quan Purnell 12, Jaylon Tharpe 11, Nick Green 10, D’Andre Cross 2, Anterrian Cheatham 2