Bears earn 3rd straight sectional berth
LEBANON -- A magnificent effort by District 9-AAA MVP JR Sanders lifted Mt. Juliet to a rousing 65-45 victory over Lebanon in Tuesday's Region 5-AAA semifinal game at jam-packed Campbell Brandon Gymnasium.
Sanders nailed four 3-pointers and exploded for 29 points as Coach Troy Allen's club improved to 23-9 on the season and avenged two regular season losses at the hands of the Blue Devils.
The Golden Bears will return to Lebanon Thursday, playing Clarksville Northeast at 7 p.m. In the regional championship game. Thursday's winner will host a Class AAA sectonal game Monday, March 6, the loser will travel.
"We wanted to get a lead and maybe pull them out and trap us," Allen said. "We usually work pretty well against traps.
"Our guys have won this game for three years in a row now, they know what it takes.
"This is a real team -- a group that doesn't mind making sacrifices in playing time, shots that sort of thing. They're all in this together and it's a pleasure to coach them."
According to plan, Mt. Juliet led 16-10 after one quarter and 29-19 at intermission -- choking off Lebanon's passing angles with a sticky man defense.
A dunk and a free throw by Eddie Jackson cut MJ's margin to 11 (37-26) with 1:41 left in the third, but Sanders went on a nine-point scoring binge with a free throw, a layup off a strip steal and two deep 3-pointers to bring the Bears to a 43-28 lead with eight minutes left in regulation.
He also nailed another three for the opening points of the fourth quarter.
"We had two main points tonight, contain Sanders and rebound," said LHS coach Jim McDowell. "We didn't do either. Give Mt. Juliet credit, they took us out of our offense with their pressure defense.
"I hate this for our kids. They had a great year, but they're hurting right now."
Lebanon closed the season 23-8 overall.
MT. JULIET (65) -- JR Sanders 29, Trey Pruitt 9, Terrell Wilson 8, Joey Hayes 5, Tony Thompson 4, Issac Stephens 4, Bryan Aiken 2, Jordan Lockridge 2, Ryan McIntosh 2. (18-of-23 FT).
LEBANON (45) -- Eddie Jackson 17, Noah Mulaski 14, Jeremiah Hastings 6, Cameron Oliver 3, JaKeese Turner 2, Zion Logue 2, Kameron Davis 1. (10-of-14 FT).