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Going for No. 4

R.C. Hatch coach Homer Davis said his team was going to take care of business against Tanner.

Despite a sluggish first half, his team made Davis a man of his word with an 83-76 win to advance to Thursday’s Class 2A championship game against Barbour County, and just as important, a shot at a fourth consecutive state title.

“These guys are so special,” said Davis. “They stayed together. They believed they could make it to the state.”

The Bobcats trailed the Rattlers (25-8) 32-31 at the half, and a Jordan Lee 3-pointer with 5:39 left in the third quarter gave Tanner its second-largest lead of the game at 41-36.

“First of the game, I thought we were ready to play,” said Tanner coach Chris Whitt.

Then, R.C. Hatch cranked the pressure up.

“We kind of rattled Tanner,” said Davis. “Then we were able to run our fast break. Once they got rattled, they weren’t getting back on defense. I was telling the guys, ‘push the ball, push the ball,’ because that’s our style of play.

Travis Starks hit a layup and 3-point play to tie the game at 41, and LeAnthony Smith hit back-to-back 3-pointers as part of a 15-1 run that put the Bobcats ahead 51-42 with 1:26 left in the period.

The Bobcats’ shooting proved to be the difference in the game. R.C. Hatch finished 7-13 from behind the arc, while the Rattlers shot a chilly 4-34 on the day.

“We didn’t hit the shots we normally hit,” said Whitt. “I told them to attack the goal more, but still look for the shot.”

The Bobcats outscored the Rattlers 7-2 early in the fourth to push the lead to 60-49, but Tanner wasn’t done yet. A Jordan Lee 3-pointer sparked an 8-0 run — aided by Steven Jones misses on the front end of one-and-one opportunities at the free throw line — to trim the deficit to 60-57 with 4:39 remaining.

The Rattlers stayed close, but couldn’t get over the hump. Then, trailing 75-72, turnovers got the better of them.

Lee overthrew an inbounds pass that was saved and intercepted by Ernest Strother for a layup. Trence Askew converted another Tanner turnover into a 3-point play to make it 80-72 with 44 seconds remaining.

The Bobcats (18-12) shot only 50 percent from the line down the stretch, but hit enough to secure the win.

Smith scored 30 points to lead the Bobcats. Jones and Askew added 14 apiece, and Brandon Battle added 13.

Latraius Mosley led the Rattlers with 26 points. Matthew Hines added 18 and Lee finished with 13.