In the opening round of the Division 4-1A Tournament Monday, the third time was the charm for Vardaman, with a 64-62 victory punching the Rams' ticket to the 2011 North Mississippi Class 1A Tournament.
It's the first time Vardaman has been to the North Tournament since current Smithville coach Greg Haynes coached the Rams to the 2000 tourney.
"The first game we played real good against them and the second game at their place they blew us out of the water," Vardaman coach Billy Dill said. "We made our point, we weren't going to let Munchie (Freeman) beat us."
Freeman scored 38 in the win at Smithville and against a box-and-one was held to 15 point Monday.
Damon Johnson battled through early foul trouble to lead the Rams (8-19) with 19 points. Chris Armstrong had 15. Eric Jones added 12.
It was Antwune Freeman who nearly beat the Rams this time, scoring a season-high and game-high 27 points.
"I don't think we played bad. I think Vardaman played better," Haynes said. "It's awfully hard to beat a team three times. I take my hat off to Vardaman."
After Johnny Westbrook tied the game at 49, Vardaman rattled off eight in a row, the last two free throws from Dewayne Armstrong.
With time dwindling, Smithville cut the lead to 60-56 on Datrune Freeman's 3-pointer. Chris Armstrong and Dewayne Armstrong hit four consecutive free throws in the final 15 seconds to overcome two more 3s from Datrune Freeman, including a final one at the buzzer.
Dewayne Armstrong had 10 points for Vardaman. Datrune Freeman had 11 as Smithville closed the season at 10-12. Vardaman will face division champion Okolona tonight.
"We got some big rebounds second half," Dill said. "Damon Johnson came back in and did real well and we hit free throws down the stretch. That's the thing that won it for us this time."
(G) Tremont 52 Smithville 21
Tremont got 15 points from Lindley Hayden and clinched a spot in next week's North Mississippi Class 1A Tournament.
The Lady Eagles will face West Oktibbeha tonight. Megan Dodd had six points for the Lady Seminoles.
"It's always a little scary that first game, knowing it's a putout game," Tremont coach Brady Ramey said. "I thought we did a really good job first quart jumping out to a lead."
Tremont scored the game's first 15 points.
n Game summaries, Page 2B