Rebels fall to Cookeville 70-60 in first state tournament since 2015


MURFREESBORO – Nobody expected Maryville to be here in November. No one, but themselves, that is.

Maryville advanced to the state tournament in 2020, but with their game against Hillsboro being scheduled on March 18, they were unable to play due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

Wednesday was the first time that the Rebels were able to actually play in the state tournament since 2015, when they fell to Blackman 65-45 in the Elite 8.

The result was not much different nine years later, as the Rebels fell to a sharpshooting Cookeville team 70-60, in a game that tipped-off so early that you could still order a sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin and a hashbrown from McDonalds, if you wanted.

This may not be the last time you see Maryville in the state tournament, however, as the Rebels return many contributing pieces from this year team.


Maryville’s Alex Akard (4) goes up for a hook shot against Cookeville’s Jaren Davis (12). Photo by Brian Hamilton

“You can’t not be proud of them,” Maryville coach Wes Lambert said in defeat. “Our goal, from the get-go, was to get to Murfreesboro and we want this young team to have a taste of what its like to be here. Alex (Akard) and Lucas Garman are our only two seniors. We wanted to have a year to remember. Obviously, we wish we could keep playing, but with our youth, this was the goal this year.”

“We felt that we were good enough to compete at this level and we tried to schedule the hardest schedule we possibly could, and I think every team we lost to this year made it to sub-state or state, except for William Blount, and we were able to put William Blount out (in the regional semifinals), so that speaks volumes to these guys being able to show up and play.”

Luke Robertson put Maryville on the board first when the sophomore banked a jumper, but Jalen Heard answered with a pair of free throws to make the score 2-2.

Maryville took a 5-2 lead on a three-pointer by Jonathan Woodlee, but Cookeville pulled even at 5-5. A conventional three-point play by Alex Akard would give Maryville an 8-5 lead with 4:35 remaining in the first quarter.

The Rebels led for the majority of the first quarter, as a jumper in the paint by Woodlee stretched the lead to 17-12 with just under one minute left in the quarter.

Two free throws by Jalen Heard would pull Cookeville to within 17-14 with 32 seconds left. Maryville held for the last shot at the end of the first quarter and miss, as the Rebels took a three point advantage into the second quarter.

Brayden Hazelbaker opened the second period with a jumper to give Maryville a 19-14 lead, which later became 21-16 after a pair of Eli Owensby free throws.


Brayden Hazelbaker (2) goes up for a layup during the Rebels’ 70-60 loss to Cookeville on Wednesday morning. Photo by Brian Hamilton

Cookeville went on a 7-0 run from that point, as Bennett Reeves scored a fast break layup to give the Cavaliers their first lead of the game, at 23-21, with 5:17 left in the first half.

A layup by Hazelbaker would knot the score at 23-23, followed by a Lucas Garman jumper that put Maryville back in front 25-23 with just over three minutes left.

Another basket by Hazelbaker would stretch the Rebels’ lead to 27-23, but Jack Oakley answered with a three, trimming the Cookeville deficit to 27-26 with 1:39 left in the quarter.

Colin Ayers made a layup with 40 seconds left in the half to give the Cavaliers a 28-27 lead, but Woodlee would answer on the other end, sinking a jumper with five seconds left to put Maryville in front 29-28.

The Rebels left a little too much time on the clock, however, as Ayers advanced the ball quickly and got off a three-pointer at the buzzer, sending Cookeville to intermission with a 31-29 lead.

Cookeville came out with two consecutive baskets in the third quarter to push the lead to 35-29. Alex Akard would respond with a basket in the paint to pull Maryville to within 35-31 with 7:35 to go in the period.

A triple by Oakley gave Cookeville its largest lead of the game at 38-31, but Hazelbaker would respond with a three of his own to make the cut the Rebels’ deficit to 38-34. Woodlee then hit a layup to make the score 38-36 with just over six minutes left in the third.

The Cavaliers stretched the lead back to 44-38 on a layup by Jaylen Heard, but Hazelbaker made a fastbreak layup, followed by a three-pointer to pull Maryville to within 44-43 with 3:13 remaining in the period.

Cookeville finished the quarter with two baskets by Bennett Reeves to take a 48-43 advantage into the final stanza.


Maryville’s Eli Owensby (22) puts up a three-pointer while Cookeville’s Jaren Davis (12) defends. Photo by Brian Hamilton

An Eli Owensby layup pulled the Rebels to within 48-45 to open the fourth quarter, but that was as close as Maryville would get, as all of Cookeville’s shots began to fall and the Cavaliers found themselves leading 59-49 midway through the period.

A three by Heard stretched the lead to 62-49 with less than four minutes to go, which would be Cookeville’s largest lead of the game. The Cavaliers would keep their distance throughout the fourth quarter, sending the Rebels home with a 70-60 loss.

Brayden Hazelwood led all scorers with 20 points, while Jonathan Woodlee finished with 15 for Maryville. Alex Akard added 11 points for the Rebels, while Eli Owensby scored 10.

Cookeville was led by Colin Ayers’ 19 points on 9-for-13 shooting, while Jaren Davis scored 18 on 7-for-11 shooting. The Cavaliers shot over 60-percent from the field and over 35-percent from long range.

Both teams shot an identical 5-of-14 from beyond the arc. The difference in the game was primarily that Cookeville shot a better percentage overall, and went to the free throw line more, making 13-of-15 free throws to Maryville’s 7-of-9.

“We did a great job of defending the three, but we just couldn’t keep Ayers and Heard in check and allowed them to get to some spots and that hurt us a lot, with them shooting so well,” Lambert said. “I was proud of our guys for limiting them to five three-pointers in the game, but we struggled with keeping their guys in front of us and that’s kind of been and that’s kind of our identity this year. I’m proud of the way we fought, though.”

Maryville didn’t take the easiest path to get to Murfreesboro, albeit, in a loaded district. The Rebels lost to the 5-seed William Blount in the district semifinals, but overpowered West in the district consolation game to take the 3-seed.

From that point forward, Maryville disposed of Powell and William Blount (54-52) to eliminate the Governors from the playoffs. The Rebels then took out a strong Bearden team to win the region, followed by a convincing win over Morristown West in the sub-state.

Jonathan Woodlee

Maryville’s Jonathan Woodlee (23) puts up a floater over Cookeville’s Colin Ayers (1). Photo by Brian Hamilton

“Our guys, all year long, have rallied around each other, and have rose to the occasion and that’s just their style of play,” Lambert said of his team’s resiliency. “Losing to William Blount in the district tournament kind of opened their eyes a little bit to show them that they’re not invincible, and nobody is. I think it kind of refocused out energy. After that loss, you could tell there was a difference in the locker room and you could tell there was a difference in practice. Things were more centered and more focused and those guys rose to that occasion. That’s who they’ve been all year long and that’s an unbelievable attribute to have and they possess it. I couldn’t be more proud of all these guys.”

Maryville sees its season end with a record of 26-8, while Cookeville (31-3) goes on to face Bartlett (32-4) in the semifinals on Friday morning.


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