The Tellico Bears and the Oneida Indians met for the semifinals of Region 2A tournament play on Tuesday night. While Tellico came into the game as the top seed from District 4A and Oneida was the second seed in District 3A it was Oneida that boasted the better overall season record of 21-9 to Tellico’s 17-13. Of course what mattered most was the twenty-four minutes on this night when both sets of boys looked to advance to the championship game.
It would be Tellico’s Piper Carter to open the game with a layup and then followed by a three-pointer to put Tellico’s first 5 points on the board. Oneida’s Dalton Yancy answered followed by several teammates. The teams exchanged bucket for bucket until Luke Carson for Oneida hit a three followed by Jordan Perry’s two buckets which put them up by six at the end of the first quarter.
Tellico’s Dale Rinehart made sure to let the Indians know the Bears had no intentions of slowing down and as the 2nd stanza began he fired up the first of his four three pointers in the game and another would soon follow this quarter.
Teammate Kobe Walker also add a bucket, but Oneida’s Nathan Boling and Kolby Morgan matched Rinehart’s threes and took their team to the locker room at the half with a nine-point lead over the Bears.
The third quarter proved to be lethal for the Plainsmen, only putting seven points on the board with another three from Rinehart and two each from Carter and Jesse Lambert to Oneida’s 14 points increasing their lead by 16 at the end of the third quarter. The Oneida radio station coined a phrase for this quarter and stated to listeners that the Indians had, “lulled the Bears to sleep.” But the Bears in fact were not hibernating and still had grit left in them, they refused to go down without a fight. They’ve often been called the one-point wonders because of the multiple OT close games and several games they won by one this season. But in the fourth quarter of the game, they could have been called the comeback kids.
A big three by Rinehart, Evan Harris’ multiple drives to the basket forcing the defense to either guard him or watch him score, and Major Carter’s steal and drive to the basket for a layup propelled Tellico closer to closing the Oneida lead. Lambert’s eight points who also combined with Carter together going 8 for 8 from the free throw line in this quarter, 4 for 4 each, pushed Tellico to within 2 pts of the Indians at 47-49 with one minute left in play. Several last minute buckets that just wouldn’t fall for the Bears and having to send Oneida to the free throw line to stop the clock, gave the Indians a chance to secure the win by four, 56-52 over the hard clawing Bears who put in 21 points in the fourth quarter but still came up short.
“It’s been the best season of my life with these teammates. We’ve bonded through hard times and tough games, it’s sad to see it come to an end,” stated Senior Piper Carter. He continued, “there is no way we could have gone as far as we did without everyone on the team, players that may not have entered the game, they kept us pumped, handed us water, and helped make us better, everyone had a job and they executed it well. We are a more than a team, we are a family.”
Tellico senior, Jesse Lambert, had this to say: “No one really expected us to go this far, but we always fought hard and we kept our confidence up. We were able to set records and take Tellico farther than many other teams ever have, we made history for our school.”
Tellico native, Coach David Tucker’s inaugural season back at home would prove that he bleeds maroon and he set sights to take the boys to a back to back District Championships and to the semifinals round of the Region where only one other Tellico team has ever been.