HANCEVILLE — Following Greg Maclin’s lead, Tanner High players gradually strolled onto the floor to accept their latest trophy.
There were no chest bumps. No. high fives. No celebratory yells.
Just a few handshakes and a quick team photo — with a collection of players doing their best to make serious faces.
Simply, business as usual.
With smothering pressure defense, third-ranked Tanner collected its fifth regional title in seven years, advancing past Hatton 58-48 Friday night in the Class 2A Northwest Regional final.
Tanner (26-4) advances to face Luverne on Wednesday in the Class 2A state semifinals — the Rattlers’ first Final 48 appearance since winning the 2011 state title.
“This team, we’ve still got work to do,” Tanner center Jace Haggermaker said. “We’ve still got two more games. We’ll celebrate when it’s finished.”
Obviously, Tanner is saving its smiles for its state championship moment.
“The goal this year is to not let anything get in our way,” Tanner coach Chris Whitt said. “There are two more games left. In football, you don’t celebrate winning a quarterfinal game. That’s the way these guys are approaching things.”
To reach the state semifinals, Tanner had to scrap its way through a physical fight.
Hatton’s big post combination, LaRon Cooper and Ty Terry, challenged Tanner’s athletic leapers in the paint, pushing the Rattlers until late in the fourth quarter.
Terry finished with a double-double to lead Hatton (19-9), scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Cooper added eight points and six rebounds.
“Those (Tanner) guys are big and athletic,” Hatton coach Rusty Murks said. “You’ve got to get a body on them, or they’ll kill you on the boards. I thought we did that at times, but weren’t able to do it enough for 32 minutes.”
Tanner raced out to a commanding lead, taking a 13-point cushion into halftime.
Hatton rallied back in the fourth quarter. The Hornets pulled within six twice — once on a Terry basket, and again with 3:22 remaining on a Cooper layup.
But Hatton could get no closer. Maclin sank a 3-pointer to push Tanner’s lead to nine, and the Rattlers were 7-of-8 from the foul line in the final two minutes of regulation.
Haggermaker, who was selected as the tournament MVP, led Tanner with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Jonathon Fletcher tossed in 13 points, while Maclin added 12.
Hatton struggled at times against Tanner’s pressure defense.
“We’ve played Hatton four times, and it’s been close every time, just like it was tonight,” Whitt said. “They’re a scrappy bunch — never going to back down. Our defense is what got us here. They turned it over 20 times compared to our four. I think that was the difference in the game.”
At Tanner, winning state titles is becoming common practice. Every player on the Rattlers’ roster has at least one championship ring — and several have multiple rings.
Tanner won a basketball state title in 2011, a track and field state title in 2012 and a football championship this past season.
But winning hasn’t created complacency.
“With everything we’ve accomplished, that gives us confidence that we can compete at the highest level,” Maclin said. “As a competitor, you always want to get better. That’s what we all try to do.”
For the players, adding a new championship ring to the collection is a priority.
To make that goal a reality?
“We need to play four quarters, because we’ve had some lulls,” Whitt said. “When you’ve got a lead, you’ve got to put the hammer down, and that’s something these guys haven’t figured out yet.
“But one way to look at it: We haven’t played our best game yet, so maybe it’s coming next week.”