Those words were “Play hard.”
Sullivan North played hard and ended University High’s season with a thrilling 47-44 win in Tuesday’s Region 1-A semifinal nightcap at Cocke County.
The Golden Raiders will make the first regional final appearance in school history with a rematch against Watauga Valley Conference co-member North Greene on Thursday night.
Thomas Brown hit a runner in the lane with 10 seconds to go to give Sullivan North the lead for good after Kaleb Meredith hit two free throws on the other end. Brown also came up with a game-sealing steal on the ensuing inbounds play.
“This is a special moment for us,” Cain said. “When they lost (Jake Hubbard), that really changed the game. We preach all the time about being a family and playing as one. When we play hard like that, we have a chance to win every game. Everyone has bought in.”
Hubbard was on the bench with an apparent ankle injury most of the game.
JUNIOR BUCS START FAST
The curse of slow starts for teams inside Cocke County High School did not seem to bother University High as it sped out to a quick 14-10 lead at the end of the first.
RAIDERS FIGHT BACK
After trailing by as much as eight points in the second quarter, the Golden Raiders cut the lead to four points by halftime (28-24) with help from Brown running the offense and Justin Cross providing a good inside presence.
Brown hit a long 3-pointer as time expired in the second quarter.
SLOWING DOWN UH
Sullivan North implemented a pesky zone defense in the third quarter and slowed the pace of the Junior Bucs’ offense, which worked to the Golden Raiders’ advantage.
The full-court press also gave UH headaches and the rebounding was all Sullivan North from the get-go.
Peyton Robinson hit a 3-pointer with 2:24 left in the third, handing Sullivan North its first lead since the first quarter.
Brown topped all scorers with 19 points while teammate Matt Burk totaled 10.
Meredith led UH with 18. The Junior Bucs got nine from both Charlie Vargo and Marshall Fleenor.
North Greene 57, Cosby 28
The size advantage and well-disciplined defense for North Greene was too much for Cosby to overcome as the Huskies prevailed with ease in the other semifinal.
The Eagles scored just once in the first four minutes of the final quarter — something that ultimately doomed them as North Greene put up 13 points during that span.
North Greene rode its horse on the inside as Elijah Smith finished with 22 points. Andy Stevens also had 10 points.
No one for Cosby finished with double-digits, but Ty Way and Braden Shaffer each finished with seven points.
“The guys played great defense in the fourth quarter,” North Greene head coach Sam Tarlton said. “They were in this game last year and lost, so I think they really used that as fuel for tonight.”
HUSKIES TAKE CONTROL
North Greene held a commanding 19-8 lead midway through the second quarter after Cosby went almost four minutes without a bucket. Zane Potter was a big catalyst in sparking the run, making a pair of open jumpers — including one from 3-point range.
The Huskies would take a 22-11 lead to the locker room after a solid opening half.
With Cosby climbing back in the game, Stevens drained a huge 3-pointer with just over two minutes left in the third quarter to give North Greene a 10-point advantage.
Smith made another basket inside as he continued to dominate the paint with Way — the Eagles’ best defender — on the bench with four fouls.
The Huskies slightly increased their halftime lead, going up 35-23 at the end of the third.