MURFREESBORO —The Nashville Christian School boys basketball team hung tough for much of Wednesday’s Class A state quarterfinal game at Murphy Center.
However, Booker T. Washington’s second-half pressure was simply too much for the Eagles, who suffered a 63-51 season-ending defeat to the Warriors (31-5)
“Our guys were not afraid at all,” second-year Nashville Christian coach Mike McPherson said. “I mean they’ve humiliated a lot of teams this year, and if a few more post shots had fallen we might still be out there playing in overtime.”
The Eagles (22-10), who shot just 38 percent from the field, stayed within striking distance despite committing 11 first-half turnovers, pulling to within 26-22 at halftime.
After the break, however, Booker T. Washington staged a 15-5 run to claim a 49-33 advantage — the Warriors’ largest lead of the game — with 5:48 left.
Nashville Christian never quite recovered.
“We were pressuring the ball, we were getting hands in the passing lanes and a lot of times they just had a lot of miscues on their passes,” Booker T. Washington coach Gregory Williams said. “We didn’t fold despite the many runs that Nashville Christian made.”
Bituli, a Tennessee football signee, finished with a team-high 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Eagles, who were making their first state tournament appearance since 1981, while teammate Zell Walker, a Tennessee Tech baseball signee, added 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting.
“Obviously I’m hurt because the coaches had a great game plan,” said Bituli, who received Class 1A Mr. Football honors in the fall. “It was perfect for this game and the only thing you can blame it on is the players.
“We should have made more shots. We shouldn’t have had as many turnovers. We should have run the plays correctly. We should have made our free throws.”
The Warriors, who will face the Van Buren County vs. Knoxville Grace winner in Friday’s 1:15 p.m. Class A quarterfinal, were led by senior guards Decorian McDaniel and Chauncey Blakely, who combined to score 37 points on 14-of-31 shooting.
“Even though it’s great making it to state we really planned on winning it,” McPherson said. “And we figured if we could get past this game we might be able to do it. It’s a tough draw in the first round, but somebody has got to face them so why not us.”