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Third-quarter burst pays off for University High

Johnny Wilson • Feb 23, 2019 at 10:23 PM

Hard to believe that a 24-point blowout of sorts could get lopsided because of one four-minute stretch of basketball, but that was the scenario Saturday night in the TSSAA Region 1-A boys game at Brooks Gym.

Actually it took University High a little less than four minutes to turn a one-possession game into a 16-point runaway advantage, and the Bucs cruised on to a 79-55 quarterfinal win over the visiting Greenback Cherokees.

"The difference tonight was that we played with a sense of urgency," said veteran University High coach Justin Penley. "We knew what was on the line, obviously, with it being a win-or-go-home game.

"We spent an inordinate amount of time in practice drilling rebound, rebound, rebound, because we knew they were taller at pretty much every position. We knew it'd come down to our effort, and tonight we played with great effort."


It all happened so quickly, midway through the third quarter, after potentially scrary Greenback (12-15) had cut a 32-27 halftime deficit to 35-33.

While Greenback was committing three turnovers and missing shots on three one-and-done trips, the Bucs scored on five of six possessions. And they spread it around, with Kaleb Meredith and Charlie Vargo pushing the issue.

Meredith, who led all scorers with 23 points, had a 3-point jumper and an old-fashioned three-point play to fuel a 14-0 spurt, while Vargo scored twice and Marshall Fleenor buried a jumper from beyond the arc.

By the time it had finished, U-High's two-point edge had become 49-33 with 3:04 left in the third quarter.

The Cherokees, who received a team-high 13-point game from Hazen Carlton and an 11-point outing from 6-foot-6 junior Derrell Bailey, faded from there.

"You know, Greenback has some real weapons and we were able to stretch it out in the fourth quarter, but the final score is not indicative of what kind of good opponent Greenback was," Penley said. "Our kids have played a lot of basketball in their lifetimes and they were really engaged in the game tonight. Our kids are not the type who are going to be intimidated."

Vargo finished with 13 points to back Meredith, while Fleenor tossed in 12 and Matthew Carter added 11 for the Bucs.


University High will take its glossy 26-5 record into the Region 1-A semifinal play Wednesday night at Sullivan North, where the Bucs will meet Watauga Conference rival Unaka.

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