Eagles hold on to beat Cocke County, reach region tournament

Feb. 15, 2014 @ 02:38 PM

 Seymour is back in the Region 1-AAA tournament.
And the Eagles had to weather Cocke County’s best salvos to get there.
“Any good team is going to make a run on you and that’s what I stressed to the kids at halftime,” said Seymour coach Brandi Stallings. “ ‘Look, they’re going to make a run. Don’t panic. Hold on. Believe in each other. Believe in what we do and it’s going to take care of itself.’ ”
The Eagles held it together for a 52-48 win in the second round of District 2-AAA tournament at Jefferson County High School. Seymour moves on to face top seed Morristown West Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The Eagles also earn their first region tournament berth since 2012 after they lost in the first round of the district tournament last year.
Getting there wasn’t easy, but even after the Lady Red cut a double-digit lead down to three points in the fourth quarter, junior Victoria Nelson, who had a team-high 16 points, wasn’t worried.
“The way that we started off the game sets the pace for the whole game,” Nelson said. “I knew once we came out in the beginning that we were going to play through it and we were going to beat them at the end.”
It was a torrid start that gave Nelson that confidence. Seymour blew its way out of the gate, taking a 12-1 lead in the game’s first five minutes. Cocke County didn’t even get a field goal until more than six minutes had passed, unable to keep up with Seymour’s fast-break rush off turnovers and rebounds. The lead would grow to as much as 13 in the second quarter, thanks in large part to Nelson. Lexi Justus would finish with 12 points while Hannah Schrimpsher and Cheyenne King had nine points each.
Nelson said she knew a fast start would be important after Cocke County beat the Eagles 56-51 on Feb. 1. That big lead didn’t surprise Lady Red coach Jeremy Byrd.
“I told them before, the way you beat them at Cocke County, you better be ready to play,” Byrd said. “If not, they’re going to beat your butt. That’s pretty much what happened.”
Stallings was equally perceptive in predicting a late run from Cocke County. Seymour was up 12 after three quarters but six straight points from Allison Ball, who tied Mika Wester for a team-high 18 points, slashed the lead in half. Cocke County had the chance to get closer but turnovers and a Ball 3 that hit the front of the rim helped the Eagles hold on. Seymour made seven of its final eight free throws.
That was enough to add three more games to the Eagles’ season.
“When they made a run we really tried to hold it together and just keep our composure so we could go and make a run,” Schrimpsher said. “... It was definitely nerve wracking but we were all on the same page so we ended up pulling it out.”