Bears take two over rival Eagles
The Sevier County High basketball teams had a big contingent of fans travel to Seymour Friday night for the school’s matchups with the rival Eagles. Neither the Bears or Bearettes disappointed their sizable crowd, as the Purple and White swept the homestanding Seymour squads in a pair of District 2-AAA thrillers.
Stacy Marine’s Bearettes (9-11 overall, 4-4 in IMAC play) used a huge outing from sophomore post Brittany Tarr and great late effort from senior Kelsey Wypych to upset the Lady Eagles (13-8, 6-2), while Ken Wright’s IMAC-leading Smoky Bears got a career-high 25 from Jacob Whaley in their 63-57 win over the Seymour boys.
"It was all about big plays tonight," SCHS girls coach Stacy Marine said. "You'll notice that a lot when you play county rival games — whoever makes the most big plays (wins), and I think we did."
None of the plays in the game were bigger than the two Bearettes' three-point plays in the game's waning minutes.
Trailing 35-30 with under four minutes to go, Sevier County got back-to-back three-point plays from senior guard Kelsey Wypych and sophomore post Brittany Tarr to push the Bearettes ahead 36-35 with 2:41 to go.
Nearly two minutes later Wypych pushed the lead to three with a pair of free throws.
But Seymour senior Kasey Norman answered, burying a 3-pointer with :38 on the clock to knot the game at 38-38.
With the ball and the game on the line, the Bearettes had a plan — get the ball to Wypych.
"We did what we had to do," Marine said. "We knew what we had to do with 30 seconds left, and we executed exactly what I wanted to do at the end."
With Wypych isolated to left of the top of the key, the senior made her move toward the basket with the clock winding down and drew a foul in the lane with just three seconds to go.
"And Kelsey stepped up and knocked down a big free throw," Marine said.
Seymour got one last look at it, following a timeout, but senior Lexi Justus's 3-point attempt bounced off the back of the rim.
"What a big moment and what a great win for these seniors," Marine said of the win.
"They laid it on the line tonight, and that's what I asked them to do. To go out and be able to look each other in the eyes after the game was over and know they'd given it everything they had, no matter what the score ended up. (And) they played focused, they played smart. What a great win for us."
Sevier County's Tarr led all scorers with 22 points, as time and again she got the ball down low and made Seymour — a team with one of the best post combinations in the district — pay. Wypych had 11 points, while Taylor Chapman, who left after a hard fall in the third quarter, had four and Rachel Cole added two.
"They just wanted it more than our kids did," Seymour coach Brandi Stallings said. "It was a great rivalry game. It was exciting, it was a great atmosphere. It doesn't matter what your record is, it's a game that everybody gets up for."
The loss drops Seymour out of a first-place tie for the IMAC lead.
Sophomore Victoria Nelson led Seymour with 12 points.
"Victoria was a pleasant sparkplug for us off the bench," Stallings said. "I think she's getting back to her form that she was at the end of last season. She wanted the basketball, and she posted up strong. I couldn't be more proud of her. She came to play."
Senior Kasey Norman added nine points, while Lexi Justus tallied five, Hannah Schrimpsher four and Mariah Flynn two.
In the boys' contest the upstart Eagles (13-7, 3-5 in 2-AAA) played the Smoky Bears (18-2, 7-1) closer than they have in years, only to come up short 63-57.
Sevier County made big runs throughout the night, but could never deliver the knockout blow to coach Brian Jessie's Eagles.
SCHS led 12-2 in the early going, only to have Seymour rally to trail by just one at 16-15 early in the second.
Again the Bears ripped off a run to lead 26-17, and, yet again, the Eagles answered cutting the halftime lead to just 28-24.
A 3-pointer to open the third by senior Peyton Lee sparked a 7-2 Seymour run, which was a capped by a Gunner Gibson bucket inside that gave the Eagles a 31-30 lead.
It would prove to be their last advantage of the night.
Sevier County point guard Jacob Whaley — who netted a career-high 25 points in the game — was clutch in the second half, scoring on drives, post-ups and fast breaks to key the Smoky Bears offense.
"Jacob was ready to play," Sevier County coach Ken Wright said. "And Jacob's got to play well. He's just a smart basketball player, he's got a good basketball IQ, and he made some good decisions."
Still, Seymour did cut the lead to two points at 52-50 with just 3:00 to go after a Jake McBrayer 3-pointer and a pair of Lee free throws.
But a Devin Schmidt three-point play on the Bears' next trip down the floor gave the momentum back to the team in purple and the Eagles never got closer than four points the rest of the way.
"I'm just happy to get out of here with a W," Wright said.
Beyond Whaley's 25, Sevier County also got 18 points from senior Devin Schmidt, seven from junior Micah Baker, six from Weston Underwood, four from Cody Underwood and three from senior Brent Delozier.
Seymour was led by Gunner Gibson with 15 points, while Peyton Lee added 10.
D.J. Griffin — who traveled back from Border Bowl practice in Williamsburg, Ky. for the game — scored eight points. He'll travel back play in the football game today at 12:30.
Sevier County's Logan McCarter, who was also repesenting team Tennessee in the Border Bowl, missed the basketball game to remain in Kentucky.
Seymour's Jake McBrayer added seven points for the Eagles.