Bayless era ends as Happy Valley falls to Raiders

Douglas Fritz • Feb 17, 2012 at 10:42 PM

ERWIN — Sullivan North silenced a legend.

The Raiders sent Happy Valley head coach Charlie Bayless into retirement Friday night, beating the Warriors 53-42 in the quarterfinals of the District 1-AA basketball tournament at Devils Den.

“I think I feel pretty good,” said Bayless, who coached for 62 years and finished with 965 career wins. “We had a bad year, and I hate it for the boys. I would have liked to have gone further, but it didn’t work out.”

North improved to 15-11 and will play top-seeded Unicoi County in tonight’s semifinals at 8:30.

In the other quarterfinal, Johnson County shocked Elizabethton, 44-43.

Happy Valley’s players gave Bayless a spirited effort, battling favored North toe to toe deep into the third quarter.

“The boys played pretty good ball,” said Bayless, whose final team finished 5-16. “They gave a good effort.”

However, a 29-29 tie disintegrated into a seven-point deficit in a one-minute third-quarter stretch where the Raiders’ fullcourt pressure took its toll.

“That’s what got us,” said Bayless.

North coach Mitch Cox agreed, but said his team had an opportunity to put Happy Valley away in the first half.

“Early in the game we had a chance to get up 15-20 points, but we kept throwing the ball away,” said Cox.

Happy Valley trailed by one at the half, 22-21, and led by one midway through the third quarter. But the Warriors couldn’t get enough scoring throughout its lineup as Donivan Grindstaff was the only Warriors’ player to score more than four points in the game.

Grindstaff got 14 of his 23 points in the second half, but Happy Valley added only seven other points after the break.

“He played great,” said Bayless. “It’s his last year. He gave it like a senior should. He played hard.”

Chase Arnold and Corey Rowe made the difference in the fourth quarter for North. They combined for 10 points as the Raiders started the period with a 14-5 run to open up a 50-35 lead.

Arnold had a nice all-around effort with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Will White added 14 points.

Bayless said he will turn his attention to golfing, fishing and gardening. But he said he was reminiscing as the final minutes ticked away.

“I was thinking about the good times I had,” said Bayless. “I love coming to the tournament.”

Cox said it was a tough situation coaching against Bayless, who was honored in a pregame ceremony.

“There were a lot of things stacked against us,” said Cox. “We were starting at a different time, so our pregame ritual was thrown out. And then they had the ceremony.

“But we jumped out to a 9-0 lead and that was about the best thing that could have happened to us.”

Next up for the Raiders is a rematch with Unicoi. North won the meeting in Kingsport while Unicoi defended its home turf.

“We’re excited,” said Cox. “After the last game here, I don’t think motivation will be our problem.

“We’ve got to find a way to score, and play the same defense.”

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