NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tahj Eaddy may only be a freshman, but he showed on Wednesday night that he is poised beyond his years.
In the Music City, the Ohio Valley Conference tournament opened up with a match-up featuring the Tennessee State Tigers and the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks.
Despite both teams boasting a high-profile senior guard, in Tahjere McCall for the Tigers and Antonius Cleveland for the Redhawks, two freshmen stole the show in the end. The veterans played a big role in the outcome, but ultimately it came to one big shot from a first-year player to give his team the win.
Tennessee State led by as many as 14 points early in the second half, but a 17-5 run brought the Redhawks back into the game, and they would keep the momentum going the rest of the way.
After leading by six at the break, Tennessee State opened the second half on a 10-2 run to push their lead to 14 points, at 44-30. Wayne Martin hit a jumper early in the second to get the ball rolling, and a three-point play from Christian Mekowulu ended the run at the 17:10 mark.
Antonius Cleveland hit a three point jumper to end the Tigers’ run, and the scoring drought for the Redhawks in the process. It also kicked off the 17-5 run that brought Southeast Missouri State to within a pair, at 47-45.
While the Redhawks cut the deficit down to two, the Tigers maintained their firm grip on the lead for the time being. With 6:11 to play in the game, Tahjere McCall hit a pair of free throws to push the lead back up to eight points for the Tigers.
The Redhawks continued to fight, and with under a minute to play, they finally clawed their way back into the lead. Cleveland completed a three-point play to give the Redhawks a 64-62 lead with 37 seconds to play in the game.
On the next possession, Tennessee State tied the game up at 64-all on a pair of free throws from Armani Chaney, and the game was off to overtime.
With the Redhawks up by three in the final seconds of the game, a three pointer from Ken’Darrius Hamilton knotted things up at 75-all. With only seven seconds left on the clock, the game looked to be destined for a second overtime.
Cue the late-game heroics from Eaddy.
With two ticks left on the clock, Eaddy hit a three pointer to give the Redhawks the 78-75 victory over Tennessee State in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.
In the biggest game of the season for the Redhawks, it was a pair of freshmen who led the way in the victory. Denzel Mahoney scored a career-high 34 points to lead the way, while also chipping in 5 rebounds.
Tahj Eaddy added 10 points of his own, none bigger than the three pointer to give the Redhawks the win. Antonius Cleveland scored 16 points and pulled down 6 rebounds of his own.
For Tennessee State, the usual suspects led the way in the loss. Wayne Martin scored a team-high 19 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 1 block. Tahjere McCall recorded 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists.
With the win, the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (15-17) advance to the quarter-finals of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, where they will meet the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on Thursday.
Following the loss, the Tennessee State Tigers (17-13) will now have to wait and see if they receive an invite to a post-season event. If not, this was the last time we will see McCall and Martin in a Tigers’ uniform.
– T. Bennett