COOKEVILLE — Montgomery Bell Academy stunned just about everyone but its own players Friday.

"(We noticed) nobody was picking us," MBA's Jackson Francis said.

Francis, Will Montana and Joshua Roberts each scored 12 points to help knock off defending state champion Knoxville Catholic 60-49 at Tennessee Tech’s Hooper Eblen Center.

Grayson Morgan scored nine points and Marcel Reed added eight for MBA, which will face Brentwood Academy at 7 p.m. Saturday for the Division II-AA title.

The Big Red wasn’t a popular pick because Knoxville Catholic has a star-studded roster, with future college players like four-star guard B.J. Edwards and three-star forward Handje Tamba.

Tamba is a 7-foot junior with scholarship offers from Tennessee and Georgetown.

Edwards, a 6-foot-3 guard, has offers from across the Southeastern Conference, including Tennessee.

But those two couldn’t stop the MBA (15-2) guards from running a full-court track race, and that’s how the game ended. The Big Red ripped off a 12-2 run in the final minutes to lead by many as 16 points.

“I mean, we intended to come in here and play a really good game. I don’t know what the people on the outside think,” MBA coach Kevin Anglin said. “We played them last year and led a bunch of that game. I think our guys knew we had a chance.”

MBA is seeking its first boys basketball state championship in over a decade. The 2010 team beat Christian Brothers for the title.

The Big Red trailed 29-25 at halftime Friday before outscoring the Irish 35-20 in the second half.

“In that first half, we could have let (the deficit) go from four, to six, to eight, to ten,” Anglin said. “But we didn’t. We regathered and recomposed.”

Knoxville Catholic (21-1) shot just 38% from the field and was forced into 18 turnovers.

That included 10 steals.

"They're quick as lightning, that’s for sure,” Knoxville Catholic coach Mike Hutchens said of MBA guards Reed and Francis. “Those two were creating havoc.”

Edwards scored 16 points for Knoxville Catholic but went 7-of-21 from the field.

Tamba was no easy defensive assignment. But he finished with just four points.

MBA attacked the big center all day.

“Not many teams have a 7-footer in the paint,” Francis said. “Coach Anglin just told us that we can’t go in there and throw it up into his arms every time, because we can’t win like that. We tried to get into the paint and look for the kickout, pump fake him and get him jumping.”

Francis seemed to agree that MBA is playing with added motivation in the tournament. Few people have seen the Big Red because the school strictly limited attendance at games this year.

“I think the tendency sometimes outside is to assume the teams with guys who are stars, that it’s going to be easy for them. We have a good high school basketball team. We have guys who are going to go on and play (in college),” Anglin said. “Ultimately, it’s about the collective effort.”


BOX SCORE

MBA (60): Will Montana 12, Jackson Francis 12, Joshua Roberts 12, Grayson Morgan 9, Marcel Reed 8, Miles Versa 2, Kayman Cooke 5

Knoxville Catholic (49): B.J. Edwards 16, Christopher Cain 11, Yesan Warren 4, Pressley Patterson 5, Handje Tamba 4, Samuel Sompayrac 4, Alex Doerger 5

Tyler Palmateer covers high school sports for Main Street Nashville. A graduate of Oklahoma State University, Palmateer has covered high school and college sports for nearly a decade. Find him on Twitter @tpalmateer83.

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