STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTO BY WHITNEY JARRELD
Nolensville landed in the consolation bracket of the Middle Tennessee Invitational Tournament due to running out of energy late in Thursday’s loss to Cane Ridge.
The Knights knew better than to make the same mistake twice. A second-half burst following a slow-moving first half propelled Nolensville to a 53-41 victory over the West Creek Coyotes on Friday at Franklin High School.
Nate Bloedorn led the way for Nolensville, scoring a game-high 26 points. The 6’7” senior center—who is averaging 24 ppg in the tournament—saved his best stuff for the second half, scoring 12 points in a third quarter that saw the Knights bust the game wide open after trailing by two at halftime.
The talented backcourt tandem of playmakers Zach Campbell and Jayden Watkins added eight points apiece.
The game jumped out to a surprisingly slow start, with both offenses—normally high-scoring teams—struggling to find the basket. Bloedorn traded early baskets with West Creek leading scorer Jaylen Negron (16 points) in what started out as a fun back-and-forth affair.
Sadly, that momentum didn’t even find its way out of the first quarter, with the Coyotes leading just 10-9 after one and 20-18 by halftime.
Following their loss to the Cane Ridge Ravens on Thursday, the Knights held a players-only post-game locker room meeting. It took more than 16 minutes of game time on Friday for the message to truly resonate, but everything finally clicked once second half play was underway.
Bloedorn proved to be an unstoppable force, single-handedly outscoring the Coyotes (12-9) in a pivotal 3rd quarter that saw the Knights go up 35-29 and never relinquish its lead.
It was the exact opposite of what took place on Thursday, when Nolensville’s narrow halftime gave way to a 3rd quarter surge by the Ravens from which they never recovered.
This time, the Knight were all gas, no brakes in a runaway second half where they outscored West Creek 35-21 to seal the win. Timely contributions from Watkins, Reese Gilbert (4 points) and Nathan Foutch (6 points) took some of the pressure off of Bloedorn’s broad shoulders.
Conversely, the Knights ability to somewhat contain Negron—who is averaging 20 ppg in tournament play—while also negating surrounding support. Montre Boddie (7 points) and Javeon Edwards (9 points)—both of whom reached double digits in Thursday’s heartbreaking overtime loss to Stratford—weren’t as much of a factor once Nolensville was able to put points on the board.
With the win, the Knights will now face Rossview on Saturday in a game to determine 5th place on the boys’ side of the bracket. West Creek remains in search of its first win in tournament play, as the Coyotes will face South Gibson in Saturday’s 7th place matchup.
Photo from previous game.