University High and Unaka each pulled off what were supposedly upsets in the first round of the Hardee’s Classic on Tuesday at David Crockett.
The Junior Bucs got 21 points from 6-foot-5 senior post John Crowe and 15 from sophomore guard Marcus Taylor in a 55-50 victory against the host Pioneers.
Unaka overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat tournament favorite Cherokee. Unicoi County defeated Sullivan South and Sullivan East beat Daniel Boone in the other two quarterfinals.
UH will play Sullivan East in the opening semifinal at 7 p.m. on Friday. Unaka-Unicoi County will follow. Consolation bracket games begin at 4 p.m.
University High (3-0) took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter against David Crockett after ending the third period on a 15-0 run. Crockett’s Anthony Campbell parlayed his blocked shot into a transition basket to give the Pioneers a 32-27 lead with 3:50 left in the quarter, but Taylor answered with a step-back jumper that ignited the 15-0 run.
Crowe had two baskets during the spurt. The first came via a drive and interior pass from Seth Hilbert, and the latter, a baseline move Crowe finished with his left hand, gave the Junior Bucs a 42-32 lead with three seconds left in the quarter.
“John Crowe played like a man tonight,” UH coach Justin Penley said. “I’m proud of these guys. They played hard.”
Crockett cut its deficit to 50-45 on two Austin Street free throws with 59 seconds left, but UH sealed it by making 5 of 6 free throws afterward. The Junior Bucs were 14-18 at the foul line. Penley said his players worked hard on free throws, especially after going 11 for 20 in the first two games.
UH started the game with three straight transition baskets for a 6-0 lead, a tone-setting opening that Penley said was invaluable.
“I thought getting those baskets early helped our confidence,” Penley said. “And they came on hustle plays … getting loose balls.”
Hilbert added 10 points for University High.
Joe Ganger scored 21 points for Crockett. Campbell and Street added 11 and 10, respectively.
Logan Carrier made three 3-pointers en route to 21 points, helping the Rangers overcome a 16-point deficit midway through the third quarter.
Billy Bales and Austin Clawson scored 10 points apiece for the Rangers.
“We knew Cherokee was the tournament favorite and we knew it’d be a good challenge for us,” first-year Unaka coach Aaron Dugger said. “Our young kids kind of grew up tonight. We were down 16 at one time, and our kids just kept fighting and fighting and fighting.”
Andrew Long’s weak-side put-back gave the Rangers the lead for good (48-47) with two minutes remaining. Bales made it 50-47 with a pair of free throws 22 seconds later and Bales assisted Austin Clawson’s layup for a 52-47 lead with 1:12 remaining.
Senior guard James Scales led Cherokee with 16 points, including two 3-pointers. Unaka’s switching defenses – some containing Scales and others designed to speed him up – made it difficult to find a rhythm.
Ty Ryans scored 11 points for Cherokee.
Unicoi County 49
Sullivan South 48
Ethan Rice’s driving layup through traffic with four seconds remaining gave the Blue Devils the victory. Rice’s basket concluded a possession that began when South missed the front end of a one-and-one with 26 seconds left.
Unicoi County coach John English elected not to call a timeout. Rice eventually ran from the left corner to the top of the key to get the ball with some 10 seconds remaining, and drove decisively down the right wing.
“I’m sitting there debating ‘Do we call a timeout and get something set,’” English said. “But that also gives the defense a chance to get set. Ethan’s a guy – we want the ball in his hands. He’s a play-maker. When he had it up at the top we just decided to let him go, and he saw an opening and took it and made a nice play to win it. … I just went with my gut.”
Michael Harr’s 3-point had given the Rebels a 48-47 lead with 52 seconds left. It capped a 10-0 run for the Rebels, who trailed 47-38 after Austin Hensley’s transition basket with five minutes left.
One of South’s baskets during the run was a double-clutch scoop with enough spin to grab the rim and fall through for A.J. Hutchins.
“We’ve got to do a better job of closing,” English said. “We got back on ours heels, sort of a little shaky and missed some free throws. I give South credit for that, too. They had a lot to do with it by doing a good job defensively.”
English said the Blue Devils will have to finish beter after watching Unaka’s comeback against Cherokee.
Trevor Shelton and Hensley scored 16 and 14 points, respectively for Unicoi. Rice added 10.
Austin English scored 16 points for South. Ryan Headrick added 10.
“We’re gonna have our hands full,” English said. “I think Coach Dugger’s got them playing great.”
Sullivan East 49
Daniel Boone 35
Chance Davis, a 6-foot-4 senior, scored 13 points and David Casady added 12 for the Patriots, who led by as many as 26 points (46-20).
Chris Jones scored 13 points for the Trailblazers. Ryan Gaitor added 12.