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Broncos fall short in MTAC tourney
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The Boyd Broncos just missed advancing to the championship game of the Middle Tennessee Athletic Conference tournament.
Boyd opened up tournament play with a 62-42 victory over the Middle Tennessee Heat Thursday in the semifinals, but a 58-46 loss to Franklin Classical Friday ended the team’s chances of making the state tournament.
Boyd wanted to make the most of its last game at J.K. Stanley Gymnasium Thursday night. Playing host to the Heat, the Broncos had big contributions from the entire roster to win by 20 points.
Sophomore Christian Barrett scored 18 points, while fellow sophomore Jake Driver added 15. Seniors Brody Fernandez and J.T. Morgan chipped in 11 points apiece.
Though four other Broncos finished in double figures, it was freshman Collin Stubblefield who got Boyd off to a fast start.
Stubblefield buried a pull-up jumper to start the game, then followed by swishing a 3-pointer as the Broncos took an early 13-10 lead after the first quarter.
Barrett’s 12-point barrage in the second quarter helped the Broncos survive a long stretch with Morgan on the bench.
The senior center picked up his third foul with 4:17 left and Boyd leading by seven. Hoping to just weather the storm until halftime, coach Chris Sullens instead saw his team build a bigger lead.
Boyd led by nine with 30 seconds to play, when a steal led to a breakaway layup for Driver. The Heat defense caught up just in time to foul Driver as he put in the layup. The sophomore shooting guard capped the three-point play with a free throw.
The Broncos forced another turnover seconds later and Barrett had the ball with time running down. Barrett dribbled to the right wing and pulled up for a fade-away jumper. As Barrett released the ball, he was slapped on the arm.
The whistle blew just as Barrett’s jumper touched the bottom of the net and the sophomore gave a fist pump in delight. The three-point play gave Boyd a 34-19 halftime lead.
Morgan returned in the third quarter to score five points, but the Heat were able to draw within nine going into the fourth quarter.
Boyd kept the Heat at bay to start the final period, but bad luck struck with 5:37 to play. Morgan, who was playing with four fouls, drove to the basket for a layup.
Morgan looked to be fouled by two Heat players, but a whistle wasn’t blown until Barrett tried to pull down the miss and was called for going over the back.
Morgan ended up with the ball and tossed it in the direction of the official. The referee didn’t catch the ball as he whistled a technical foul on Morgan.
The call meant Morgan would have to watch from the bench for the final five minutes of his last game at J.K. Stanley Gym.
Instead of the Heat making a run, Fernandez scored eight straight points for the Broncos to put the game away and advance Boyd into the semifinals.
Playing at Currey Ingram High School in Brentwood, Boyd faced Franklin Classical with a championship-game bid on the line. The Broncos lost the previous two meetings in the regular season and Franklin Classical made it three in a row with a 12-point victory.
Morgan scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds as Boyd struggled shooting in the semifinals. The Broncos shot 27.6 percent for the game and finished a paltry 1-for-11 behind the three-point line.
Fernandez added 17 as Boyd fell to the third-place consolation game in the team’s first season playing in the Middle Tennessee Athletic Conference. Saturday’s consolation game results weren’t available at press time.
Coach Sullens saw his team fall flat offensively at the worst time. Boyd held Franklin Classical 12 points under its season scoring average, but the Broncos couldn’t find the range on the other end.
“The stats tell the story. We shot 33 percent from two and 9 percent from three,” said Sullens. “We made only three shots from the field in the first half and turned the ball over 21 times. We’re a 60-point offensive team that never looked in sync.
“We never had the lead and it put us in catch-up mode all night. We were not mentally focused at a time in the season where you need that the most.”
Despite the semifinals letdown, coach Sullens is still proud of what his team accomplished this season, especially the senior duo of Morgan and Fernandez.
“I’m very proud of a group of guys that battled the entire year,” said Sullens. “Some nights you just don't have it and Friday was one of the nights.”
“These two seniors have the respect of myself and everyone at that school.  I had hoped we could have sent them out on a better note. Coach Chris Perry and myself are so grateful that we had the opportunity to coach those guys. They can never be replaced. I just hope our younger guys understand how those two practiced and played nightly. They will be missed  immensely.”