By Joe Williams
FRANKLIN – Page boys basketball coach Aaron Howard learned three lessons in Monday night’s hard-fought 58-55 win over visiting Independence to open the District 11-AAA Tournament.
“One, you’ve got to play four quarters. Two, other teams play as hard as you do. And three, we found a way to win,” he said.
None was more important than the third, as the fourth-seeded Patriots watched a 15-point lead fizzle away in the final 10 minutes, making what appeared an easy advancement to the semifinals — and a spot in the Region 6-AAA tourney next week — a nail-biter.
“I have a lot of respect for that Independence team, as hard as they play,” Howard said. “They could have wilted at any time when we had them on the ropes, but they just kept throwing haymakers.”
And the smallest kid on the floor threw the biggest punches.
Eagles guard Jett Montgomery poured in 23 of his game-high 30 points in the second half. Just a freshman, Montgomery nailed 9-of-11 shots he took in the final 16 minutes, including 4-of-5 3-pointers.
“I can’t wait to see what the future holds for that kid,” said Howard. “If you could make fantasy trades in high school, I’d be trying to make that trade. But they ain’t trading him.”
On the other side of the coin, Howard isn’t interested in trading any of his guys, either. Thomas Seaman led Page with 18 points, showing soft hands around the paint for most of the night before ramming home a thundering two-handed dunk with three minutes left in the third to lift the Patriots lead to 15. He was hit with a technical foul after officials ruled he kept his grasp on the rim a little too long, though.
The extra free throws ignited Indy, which went on a 21-8 run over the ensuing eight minutes, cutting the lead to 52-50. The teams swapped field goals before Grant Snider sealed the deal for the Patriots with a free throw with just 0.7 seconds left.
Seaman got support from Andres Casella (12 points) and Jaime Hernandez (10 points) in the win.
The loss ended the season for the fifth-seeded Eagles despite the efforts of Montgomery, River Katina and Tyus Anderson.
“I thought the kids played great, just gave it all they had,” said Independence interim coach Jeff Parker as he hugged every player on the way out of the locker room. “I told them just to give it everything they had. They did, and it gave us an opportunity to win the end of the game.
“We’ve got a lot of guys coming back. Those guys got a taste of what it means to play in a meaningful game and the ones coming back are looking forward to it.”
The Patriots will travel Tuesday to face top-seeded Franklin after the Admirals bested Dickson County 78-28 Monday night. That game started at Franklin but was moved to Independence after a gas leak was suspected at the Hillsboro Road school.
It is the first time since 2014 that Page has advanced past the first round of the district tournament.
Page boys 58, Independence 55
I 8 15 16 16 – 55
P 19 14 13 12 – 58
Independence (55) – Jett Montgomery 30, Tyus Anderson 7, River Katina 7, Cameron Bell 4, Owen Ries 3, Justin Miles 2, Sam Womack 2
Page (58) – Thomas Seaman 18, Andres Casella 12, Jaime Hernandez 10, Ryan Lange 8, Grant Snider 6, Joey Cuculla 4
3-pointers – Independence 5 (Montgomery 5), Page 3 (Casella 2, Lange)