No. 4-ranked McEachern turned the tables on No. 2 Grayson in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs on Saturday, allowing coach Mike Thompson to postpone his retirement for another day with a 57-56 overtime road victory.
A year ago, Grayson eliminated McEachern in the state semifinals. Grayson also beat the Indians 74-66 during the regular season. From the moment the McEachern team bus pulled into the Grayson parking lot, Thompson could see his team was locked in and focused.
This year, in a game where neither team led by more than seven points. It came down to free throws, with McEachern hitting 10 of 12 in the overtime. The last one, knocked in by Cam McDowell, gave the Indians a 57-53 lead with 5.6 seconds left. Grayson’s Robert Cowherd made a 3-pointer with two seconds left, but the Rams were out of timeouts and could not stop the clock.
“That was a good basketball game,” Thompson said. “It’s a shame that was a second-round game. That should have been a semifinal game. … It’s nice to be able to move along.”
McEachern will travel to play Collins Hill in the Elite Eight.
McEachern (23-4) got 19 points apiece from Arkansas signee Chance Moore and Cam McDowell, the Region 2 Player of the Year and Georgia commitment. McDowell had six points in overtime and was 4-for-6 from the line in the extra period.
Grayson (22-4) had its 14-game winning streak end. The Rams were led by junior Chauncey Wiggins with 15 points, Clemson signee Ian Schieffelin with 14 points and Cowherd with 11.
“We have Div. I players and we have other good players, too,” Thompson said. “And they make good plays, too, and they make good decisions and that’s what you like to see. We made a lot of good decisions, but what I think we did best was on defense. We pursued the ball. We got a lot of loose balls and for us that’s important.”
McEachern patiently worked for good 3-point shots over the Grayson zone in the first quarter, make four of them, and took a 17-10 lead into the second period. But Grayson switched to a triangle-and-two and it took the Indians time to adjust. McEachern scored only four points in the period, but still had a 21-20 lead at halftime.
“It was tough for (Moore and McDowell) to get a shot and our other guys didn’t make any shots,” Thompson said. “I felt like the biggest part of the game was we only scored four points and we were still up one at halftime. That’s tough.”
The second half was a back-and-forth battle and Grayson had a four-point lead with a minute left, only to have McEachern tie the game 45-45 on a basket by Jacob and two free throws by Moore.
In overtime, Grayson had a 50-49 lead on Cowherd’s three-point play, but McEachern scored the next seven points and led 56-50 with 12 seconds left. McDowell made one of two free throws, but Grayson stayed alive when Elliott made a trey with 6.1 seconds.
“We played good defense,” Thompson said. “They’re a tough team to defend.”