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Rattlers hold off Black Bears as overflow crowd watches
By Justin Graves
The Decatur Daily

Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily
Tanner’s Fred Rich (44) flies over Austin’s Troy Harris (23) for a dunk Tuesday. Tanner's Fred Rich (44) flies over Austin's Troy Harris (23) for a dunk during the game at Tanner High School Tuesday, January 29, 2013.

TANNER — Greg Maclin says he couldn’t hear himself think as he stepped to the free-throw line late in the fourth quarter.

For the Tanner High guard, that’s understandable.

An overflow crowd filled the stands and lined the balcony in Tanner’s gymnasium, and as the game progressed, it got louder and louder.

But the noise didn’t faze Maclin. He stepped to the foul line with less than 10 seconds remaining and sank a pair of free throws to give Tanner a four-point lead, helping the Rattlers hold off Austin 57-56 Tuesday night.

I think that’s the most people I’ve ever seen in this building since I’ve been playing here,” Maclin said. “It was loud. Very loud. So loud, you couldn’t get your adrenaline to stop pumping.”

With this season’s Tanner-Austin series, loud, rowdy and entertaining have been the themes.

When Tanner (19-2) traveled to Austin (15-7) in mid-January, school officials had to close the gate before tipoff of the varsity boys game because the building was over capacity.

Because Tanner’s gym is larger, that wasn’t an issue, but the bleachers on both levels of the gym were full, and fans lined the entire perimeter of the balcony — standing two deep behind the goals.

There were fans lined six and seven deep at both gym entrances.

And almost everyone in the building was into the game. At one point in the second half, hundreds of fans from both sides were booing the officials at the same time.

We’ve had some big crowds here, but it’s been a while since we’ve had one like this,” Tanner coach Chris Whitt said. “It was unbelievable out there. Just a great atmosphere for basketball.”

There was a reason the crowd was energetic. Talented players from both teams were consistently making athletic plays. The two teams combined for 10 dunks, keeping the energy in the building high.

It seemed like everybody was dunking,” said Tanner forward Fred Rich, who dunked four times and led the Rattlers with 16 points. “Everybody was making plays. That’s the most exciting game we’ve played this year.”

Class 2A No. 1 Tanner led almost the entire game, but besides a 14-6 run in the first quarter, could never build any distance. The Rattlers led 35-28 at halftime.

Austin made a run at the lead in the fourth quarter. Malique Elliott banked in a shot in the lane to pull the Class 6A No. 10 Black Bears within one. Two possessions later, Tobias Payne tied the score at 49-49 with a putback.

Troy Harris led Austin with 13 points, while Elliott added 11.

Everette Mayes finished with 10 for the Black Bears.

But Tanner didn’t fade in the final minutes. Justin Smith nailed a jumper to give the Rattlers a two-point lead with less than 30 seconds remaining, and after getting a defensive stop, Maclin sank a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach.

Maclin finished with six points and 13 rebounds, while Jace Haggermaker poured in 12 points with 11 rebounds. Smith added 14 points for the Rattlers.

That was a physical game,” Maclin said. “That was probably the most physical game we’ve had. It was tough out there.”

Whitt agreed.

It was a great win for our guys,” he said. “Definitely a win we can build on moving forward.”

Austin girls 62, Tanner 57: With Tanner needing a 3-pointer to tie the score in the final seconds of regulation, Austin’s biggest star provided the clutch play the Black Bears needed.

Takisha Jordan blocked Tanner’s final shot, picked up the ball and made a layup in transition to seal the win.

Jordan finished with 19 points to lead Austin (19-6).

Austin raced out to a 12-1 lead in the first quarter, but Tanner rallied back, pulling within six by halftime. Sydney Houston paced the Rattlers (9-13) with 24 points, while Alliyah Fletcher added 17.

Katie Speegle finished with 19 points for Austin.

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