Gatlinburg-Pittman comes up short against Carter in district title game
Gatlinburg-Pittman did everything it could to win Wednesday's District 3-AA championship.
The Highlanders scored 37 points in the second quarter. They erased a 10-point deficit in a flash at the start of the third. They had five guys score 13 points or more and two score more than 20.
But against Carter, not one of those body blows was enough. After 30 minutes of salvos, it was two turnovers in the final two minutes that allowed the Hornets to pull away for a 110-103 victory inside Union County High School. G-P will still get to host a Region 2-AA quarterfinal on Saturday night against Catholic, the third-place finisher in District 4-AA.
“Any time you get to this point in the season, you're playing another team that's really good,” said G-P coach A.J. Bennett said. “Carter's playing the best basketball of anybody around here right now. We knew they were going to make plays. We've got to sprint back and try to make plays.
“They made plays. We made plays. They just made a couple more at the end.”
Those extra plays came at the worst time for G-P. With the game tied at 102-102, the Highlanders threw the ball into the grasp of Carter's Tucker Greene. The senior promptly laid the ball in before the ensuing inbounds pass went too far and out of the reach of Steffen Schroeder. Toy'Shaun Winton, who finished with 37 points, got to the line next for Carter and those four points were the separation the Hornets needed.
“It's refuse to lose, refuse to get beat,” said Carter coach Joby Boydstone. “You get knocked down, you get right back up. We took a lot of knockout punches tonight from G-P, trust me.”
Those haymakers would've won most games. Clay Leatherwood (21) and Thomas Mackey (22) each had more than 20 points. Leatherwood dominated the second quarter, scoring seven straight points and 13 total in a 37-point period when the Highlanders erased their first double-digit deficit of the night to take a 55-53 lead by halftime.
The second half began disastrously, though, with the Hornets sprinting out on a 13-2 run before three minutes had passed. This time it was a pair of 3s by Noah Clinton that brought Carter back to earth.
But G-P didn't have enough retake the lead, sticking close to the Hornets for most of the fourth when the deficit never got bigger than five until the final minute.
“They make their runs and we made our runs,” Leatherwood said. “They just ended up having us there at the end. They just kept coming right at us.”
But so did the Highlanders. Schroeder finished with 17 points while Christian Maloney had 14 and Gabe Hinton added 13. Mackey, already owning a buzzer-beating winner against Pigeon Forge in the first round of the tournament, looked like he might have the answer again when he nailed a 3 to tie the game at 97-97 with 2:30 to play. Twenty-seven seconds later, his basket put G-P into triple digits with a 100-99 lead.
But that was as close as the Highlanders got to their first district title in 12 years.
“We executed sometimes but we needed to play a full 32 minutes,” Mackey said. “Things happen and I'm just glad we're still going to regions.”