KINGSPORT — All that was needed was a punch in the mouth, according to Sullivan South girls basketball coach Terry Hutson.
“At the end of the third quarter we had one come to the bench with a big ol’ knot upside her head and right before that we had another one bleeding,” Hutson allowed. “It took that to wake our girls up. That gave ‘em some fire about ‘em.”
Whatever the reason, South dominated the fourth quarter Tuesday night and waltzed to the finish line, claiming a 57-47 win over visiting Johnson County in opening-round play of the District 1-AA tournament.
The sixth-seeded Lady Rebels (10-12) now move into Wednes- day’s 7 p.m. second-round game against third-seeded host Sullivan Central, the winner advancing to the semifinals and earning a spot in next week’s Region 1-AA field.
Seventh-seeded Johnson County (4-18) saw its season come to an end.
LADY REBELS GAIN COMMAND
Johnson County, up 14-3 at one point, received a terrific first half from guard Sadie Stout and led throughout the initial 16 minutes, before South recovered to gain a brief lead early in the third quarter.
Still, the Lady Longhorns regrouped and took a 42-39 edge into the final frame.
It was then that South’s 2-2-1 zone trap really flipped the scenario.
“When we went to that, it changed how the game was going,” Hutson said. “We started getting a number of steals and that led to some easy baskets for us.”
Back-to-back steals by Bradlie Warner helped South assume complete control, after a Chloe Nelson three-point play had given the Lady Rebels the lead for good at 44-42 with 6:35 left in the game.
The 5-foot-7 Nelson, a junior, was a pain in the low block all night for Johnson County, often getting to the foul line and finishing with 17 points.
“She gets great position deep,” said Johnson County coach Leon Tolley. “We told the girls you’ve got to do the work before she gets there and not let her beat you to the spot, but she does a great job.
“We wanted to come over here and compete, and we did. Wish we could have finished, but you have to give South credit for making the plays to win it.”
Warner made a 3 from the top of the key and then drained two foul shots following one of her steals, fueling a pivotal 16-2 spurt which pushed the Lady Rebels to a comfortable 55-44 advantage with 2:40 to play.
Kaydee Morelock also scored a couple of hoops on driving layups to aid the run.
Nelson received terrific offensive support, with Warner and Allie Jordan both scoring 10 points, Morelock and Ariana Kerney nine each.
Stout finished her career with a game-high 22 points, but a strong defensive effort from Morelock held the senior to just five points in the second half, clearly a huge part of the comeback win for South.
Hard-working Emmy Miller added 10 points for Johnson County.