The Greeneville Greene Devils were simply too much for the Rebels as they took home their second straight Region 1-AA title with an 87-70 win.
A 7-1 spurt to start the final period of play after South (29-5) had cut what was a 12-point Greeneville lead down to five was the final dagger.
“We couldn’t keep anybody in front of us and every 50-50 ball, they got — and we couldn’t rebound,” Sullivan South coach Michael McMeans said in his assessment of the game. “It became tough and when we switched to zone, we weren’t active enough. We needed to create turnovers and it sped them up a little bit, but the problem was that when we speed them up, we didn’t get back. When they broke our front line, we weren’t hustling back as much as we needed to.”
The Greene Devils (25-6) broke the Rebels’ pressure defense early and often in the second half and often exploited a huge mismatch that Reid Satterfield had on the much smaller Ben Diamond.
“In the beginning of the second half, we did a really good job of breaking the press,” Greeneville head coach Brad Woolsey said. “What a game of ebbs and flows on both sides. There was a lot of heart on both sides, too. … (The run to start the fourth quarter) really put us out there, but with the way (South) shoots the ball, they’re never out of it. That spurt was huge and it never got too terribly close again.”
Satterfield was named the tournament MVP after finishing with 30 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter.
Diamond almost solely kept his Rebels in the game with a Herculean effort of 35 points, going 24 of 28 from the free-throw line.
SLOW START, STRONG RECOVERY
The Rebels did not have an ideal start to the game, falling behind 14-7 — but they ended the quarter on a 14-0 run and took a 21-14 lead into the second.
The Greene Devils fought back and took a 37-35 lead with 1:42 left in the half and stayed in front from there.
DIAMOND AND LAYNE SHOW
The Rebels had a good first quarter distributing the basketball, but after the opening period the Greene Devils made the adjustments.
Layne ended the night with 19 points but scored only five after halftime.
The only others to score for South after the first were Gannon Chase — who finished with 11 points and fouled out — and Creed Musick. He had just one bucket.
“We came to play and we competed hard, but we have to have more than three guys score the ball,” McMeans said.
OTHERS FOR THE DEVILS
Jakobi Gillespie netted 14 points for the Greene Devils and Austin Loven finished with 17. Jaydon Manuel contributed 11.
Greeneville ended up doubling up South in the final period, 24-12.
A LOOK AHEAD
Greeneville hosts Fulton (21-7) on Monday night at 7 p.m. while Sullivan South will be in Blount County to take on Alcoa (21-10) at the same time.
“It’s going to be a battle but at the end of the day, this was out goal,” McMeans said. “We wanted to get to the sectional and give ourselves a chance at going to the state tournament. All you can ask for is a shot at it.”
South has never made it to the state tournament and is appearing in the sectional round for only the fourth time ever.
Greeneville is 5-5 all-time in the sectional round, producing a 5-1 home mark. However, the last two times the Greene Devils have played the Falcons this far into the postseason, Greeneville’s season has ended.
Also, Fulton dealt Greeneville its lone sectional loss at home in 2016.
“Fulton is a very well-coached team and Jody Wright always does a great job,” Woolsey said. “They’re a great defensive team and they’re winners. We’re glad to be at home, but we know this will be a tough game. It’s going to have to be a community crowd and everyone is going to have to be in on this one.”