Figuring out the 2011 Hardee’s Classic championship formula is as easy as 1-2-3.
One game between two of the top teams from the Three Rivers Conference will decide the 2011 champion. Oh yeah, for Unicoi County or Sullivan East a win tonight will mean a record fourth Hardee’s title.
Unicoi County beat Unaka 72-51 and Sullivan East defeated University High 66-42 in Friday’s semifinal games at David Crockett High School.
The inside tandem of Travis Shelton (19 points) and Austin Hensley (18 points) led the way for Unicoi County, but it was four 3-point shots by Davey Edwards in the third quarter which broke open the game for the Blue Devils.
“He made some 3’s to get some things going and we got our transition game going,” Unicoi head coach John English said. “I thought we defended a little harder and those 3’s were really the jump start to it.” Edwards ended with five shots beyond the arc on a 15-point night.
“It really got my confidence up,” Edwards said. “I was a little down in the first half, but after that I got into the groove and started feeling better.
“It got everything going, everything started.”
The Rangers (1-3) kept it close throughout the first half, trailing 16-14 at the end of one quarter and 26-22 at the break. But, Unicoi quickly pulled away in the third period, pushing the lead to 54-32 heading into the final stanza.
“This bunch, we just have to learn,” Unaka head coach Aaron Dugger said. “This was a big measuring stick for us, seeing how far we’ve come, how far we’ve got to go. We’ve got a long ways to go.
“This is the first game I didn’t think we played very hard. We weren’t making shots, but those nights you aren’t making shots, you have to suck it up and play.”
With sophomore Connor Simpson also hitting double figures with a 10-point game, the Blue Devils were able to take advantage of their size in the second half.
“We felt size-wise we had some opportunties we didn’t take advantage of in the first half, but we did in the second half,” English said. “I thought all of our guys did a good job recognizing where those opportunities were and taking advantage of them.”
Logan Carrier was the lone Ranger to hit double digits with 14 points, and Andrew Long fell just short of the mark with eight points.
Sullivan East . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 University High . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
The Patriots’ length, especially on the defensive end, proved bothersome for the Junior Bucs (3-1).
“It’s not just their height,” University High head coach Justin Penley said. “They’re long and obviously their press had a good deal of success against us.
“We’re playing a lot of kids who are inexperienced, and when you’re facing that kind of pressure, those kind of things show up.”
Sullivan East (5-0) was led by a 25-point performance by David Cassaday, who made five shots beyond the 3-point line. Just as important according to Patriots’ head coach John Dyer was the defensive play of Chance Davis.
“Cassaday, he’s a good player,” Dyer said. “So is Chance Davis. Chance didn’t score a lot tonight, but he did a great job on the boards and he had one of his best defensive games. Even if he didn’t score like he usually scores, he was a big part of us winning this game.”
The Patriots held a 16-12 lead at the end of one quarter and a 30-23 lead at the half. They began to pull away midway in the third quarter, pushing the lead out to 20 points on a 3-pointer by Garrett Carter.
It was a 49-35 Sullivan East lead at the end of three quarters and the lead remained in double-digits for the remainder of the game.
Pounding the ball inside, Jonathan King ended with 12 points for the Patriots.
Joseph Phillips led the Junior Bucs with 13 points and John Crowe provided some counter attack in the post with an 11-point effort.
Despite the loss, University High’s head coach felt confident about his teams chances in today’s third-place game against Unaka.
“If your kids don’t play hard, you’re really hurting,” Penley said. “But, my kids do. I feel like we have a solid foundation and our kids will come back and give it everything they have.”