Smoky Bears finish huge comeback at Maryville
Monday night at Maryville High, many spectators of high school basketball were watching the time tick by in anticipation of the night’s college football national championship game.
They were unaware they were already seeing the best game the evening had to offer.
For the first eight-plus minutes of Sevier County’s 65-63 win over the homesteading Rebels, it looked like déjà vu all over again, only worse, for the Smoky Bears (16-2 overall).
Maryville (12-3) — the team that ended Sevier County’s 14-game winning streak late last month with a 10-point defeat in the Renasant Bank tournament semifinals — was up 24-2 on SCHS early in the second quarter thanks to red-hot shooting and tough defense.
Rebels players were enjoying the beatdown, audibly taunting the Bears players after blocked shots and missed layups, while the home student section gave SCHS players the villain’s treatment on each trip down the court.
Then things changed.
Playing a dogged full-court press, Sevier County mounted a 26-10 run, sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers from Jacob Whaley and Cody Underwood and two more bombs from Trent Pope, to cut Maryville’s huge lead to 34-28 at intermission.
Suddenly, it was a game.
Maryville maintained its lead throughout the third quarter fighting through the Purple and White pressure, but it was obvious Sevier County wasn’t going away without a fight.
In the fourth quarter the Rebels — and their rowdy fans — saw just what an inspired Bears squad can do.
Devin Schmidt, who finished the night with 30 points, lit the Rebels up for 19 points in the final eight minutes, including a trio of 3-pointers and a ridiculous behind-the-back-dribble drive for a layup high off the glass.
Coach Ken Wright, who traditionally isn’t too keen on some of Schmidt’s fancier moves, didn’t mind Monday.
“It gives me gray hair, (but coming into the game), I said ‘Heck, Devin, you’ve just got to be Devin. You play your game. We can live with it. I don’t want you thinking about what I’ve been saying about that, you just play your game.’ (And) he just took over out here.
“The threes he was hitting out here — there’s guys in his face — and he’s just stiffing them,” Wright said. “That’s fun. I love it when their crowd gets on him, because he just takes it to another level. He struggled early shooting the ball, as everybody did. But 19 (points) in the fourth quarter, that’s unreal.”
Schmidt’s effort sparked the incredible comeback, but it wasn’t just the Bears’ star who made the miracle happen for SCHS.
Jacob Whaley snapped out of a shooting slump in the game, going for 12 important points, including a pair of triples. Role players Brent Delozier and Trent Pope made huge plays — Delozier on the offensive glass and Pope from behind the 3-point stripe.
And Cody Underwood (eight points) and Logan McCarter (six points) each added nice performances, as the Bears avenged their earlier loss to Maryville.
“We rotated in and out, and everybody we put in off that bench went out there and did a fantastic job,” Wright said. “If there was ever a team win, that was it.
“The kids believed, and they just refused to lose in that fourth quarter. Over here on the sidelines it was just, ‘We aren’t losing this thing.’ When you’ve got kids believing that, that’s just fantastic.”
Maryville’s free-throw line struggles late helped the Bears, and a desperation 3-point attempt from the Rebels’ Clark McCall — who led his team with 11 points — clanked harmlessly off the mark to seal the Bears’ win.
Things didn’t go as well for the Bearettes.
Like the boys, the girls also had a valiant comeback against the Lady Rebels (7-7 overall), but the work to battle back seemed to zap the Purple and White of their energy, and Maryville coasted in the second half to a 45-34 win.
The SCHS girls (7-11) trailed 16-6 after a quarter, but stormed back with a a 12-2 second period to tie the game at half.
Freshman Bri Miniard gunned in a 3-pointer just before the halftime horn to knot the game at 18-18, and it seemed that the Bearettes had gotten over their early struggles.
But the Lady Rebels began the third quarter on a 15-2 run, and the SCHS girls couldn’t climb back in, getting no closer than nine points down the rest of the way.
Brittany Tarr was the Bearettes’ high scorer with 11 points.
Kelsey Wypych showed more improvement in her second game back from injury, with seven points.
Also scoring for SCHS were Taylor Chapman (four points), Brooklyn Fox (four), Miniard (three), Katlyn Davis (three), and Olivia Maples (two).