Commerce advanced to its fourth consecutive post-season basketball tournament following the team’s opening win over Athens Academy in the Region 8-A Tournament.
But the Tigers’ momentum was short-lived. Eventual champion Athens Christian, followed by Hebron Christian Academy, dispatched Commerce on Friday and Saturday in the semifinal and final rounds at Lakeview Academy in Gainesville.
The losses dropped Commerce to the region’s no. 4 seed and pitted the team against Gordon Lee, Region 6-A’s no. 3 seed.
Gordon Lee defeated Commerce 62-50 on Tuesday night in Chickamauga as part of a play-in game to complete the Class A State Tournament bracket.
Coach Chad Bridges expected a challenge in the fast-break squad, which improved its record to 20-9. Commerce finished its season with a 15-12 record.
“They like to get up and down the floor,” Bridges said, adding that he believed the Tigers were athletic enough to keep up with the Trojans. “Athens Christian (was) a different beast.”
Commerce took a stubborn approach with the speedy Eagles last Friday, attempting to slow the pace of the game as much as possible. The strategy worked in the first period, but early foul trouble caused Commerce’s Thomas McMillan to be sidelined through much of the second period.
The scoring gap widened as a result. Down just three points after the opening quarter, Athens Christian’s lead grew to 31-17 at the half.
“That hurt us in the second period,” Bridges said. “We needed Thomas to be on the floor.”
Commerce did manage to hold Athens Christian to 52 points, a defensive feat only four other teams have managed against the Eagles (19-2) this year.
“We stopped them,” Bridges said.
The Tigers’ slow offensive production hampered the strategy, however. McMillan led Commerce with 12 points and Jonathan Book and Robert Hayes were held to a combined 12. The Tigers lost 52-30.
Commerce’s offense remained sparse the following night with just four players scoring any points at all. McMillan led them with 30 points as the Tigers dropped to Hebron, 49-45.
The losses did not detract from the excitement the team felt after its first win over Athens Academy, which bested the Tigers twice during the regular season.
The strategy to contain guard Eric Williams worked well, Bridges said. The Tigers held the freshman to 13 points last week, a vast improvement from his 33-point outing against Commerce on Jan. 20.
“We played well,” Bridges said. “Thomas did a good job of shutting him down.”
Bench play complemented McMillan, who led the Tigers with 21 points.
“Other guys stepped up and scored,” Bridges said, mentioning Tyre Treadwell, Chandler Rogers and Tony Patman as providing clutch shots and free throws.
Commerce 49, Athens Academy 41
Score by quarter
Scorers—CHS, Thomas McMillan 21, Chase Klugh 4, Chandler Rogers 3, Tyre Treadwell 8, Tony Patman 5, Robert Hayes 8; AA— Eric William 13, Austin Schulte 2, Adam Granger 2, P.J. Blessing 15, Mason Mallory 6, Will Cox 3.
Athens Christian 52, Commerce 30
Score by quarter
Scorers—CHS, Thomas McMillan 12, Chase Klugh 1, Jonathan Book 3, Isaac Wood 1, Tyre Treadwell 2, Tony Patman 2, Robert Hayes 9; AC— Adrian London 10, Zack Resop 12, Zach Lillie 7, Demetrius McWhorter 6, Will Jackson 6, Tae Carruth 2, DeMarcus Evans 4, John Echols 3, Markize Christian 2.
Hebron Christian Academy 49, Commerce 45
Score by quarter
Scorers—CHS, Thomas McMillan 30, Chase Klugh 6, Tony Patman 1, Robert Hayes 8; HC, Caleb Hawkins 10, Tyler Matthews 4, Ryan Thomas 10, Tyler Skidgel 6, Rob Harrison 4, Dylan Schulte 15.