Defense powers Sevier County to 2-AAA final
Behind a strong defensive performance in the second half, Sevier County beat Cocke County, 64-59, to advance to the District 2-AAA championship game on Saturday.
Jacob Whaley led Sevier County with 19, while Cody Underwood had 14 and Bailey Fields added nine.
After falling down six at halftime, the Smoky Bears bounced back strong in the second half, thanks in part to a strong defensive performance from senior point guard Jacob Whaley.
Cocke County sharpshooter Hunter Suggs led the charge for the Fighting Cocks, scoring 20 of his 23 points in the first half. At halftime, Sevier County coach Ken Wright gave Whaley the assignment of guarding Suggs in the second half.
“We talked it over in the locker room,” Whaley said. “We were in a zone, and he lit us up so we went man. I guarded him in the second half, and I played hard defense on him. He didn’t get any more open shots.”
Cocke County closed the first half on a 14-4 run, and Wright was not pleased with the effort his team gave in the first half.
“We were just sluggish,” Wright said. “They took it to us. They attacked us and we just kind of stood there and let them. So at halftime we just talked about playing harder. We just had to play harder.”
Wright was happy to see his team respond well out of the locker room, and pick up the slack in the second half.
“It’s tournament time,” Wright said. “You better be able to answer runs. Basketball truly is a game of runs, and we answered theirs well.”
On top of leading the defensive effort, Whaley used his role as point guard to get the team’s offense on track.
“It’s a big part of my leadership,” Whaley said. “I get the ball up the court and get us in the offense, and that’s what gets us going. When we run our offense and get good shots, we can beat a lot of teams.”
The Bears will play top seed Jefferson County for the title on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Morristown West 57, Seymour 56
DANDRIDGE — Seymour fell just short of upsetting top seed Morristown West in a very physical semifinal.
Forward Christina Zimmerman hit a free throw with 40 seconds left to put the Lady Trojans up one, and Seymour failed to convert on the other end.
The game was a battle in the paint, with both teams trying to take advantage of their size down low.
“In the beginning, we just got caught up in the physicality,” said Eagles forward Mariah Flynn. “Coach was telling us not to worry about the banging and just play our game.”
Cheyenne King led the Eagles with 18 points, while Victoria Nelson had 14 and Flynn added eight.
Seymour fell down early in the game, but battled back to trail by only two at halftime. After such an emotional game, Seymour coach Brandi Stallings was very pleased with the effort her team gave.
“I am so very proud of my team,” Stallings said. “They went out and battled right to the finish. We came up short in a couple areas, but they stuck to the game plan the whole time and we were in it the whole time. It just really stinks coming up short.”
There is more basketball left to be played, though, as the Eagles will play in Monday’s consolation game against Morristown East before moving on to the Region 1-AAA tournament.
“(We need to work on) just getting over that last hump,” Stallings said. “We have to take care of the basketball, and we have got to be able to finish.”