For the second year in a row and third in the last four, the Sevier County Smoky Bears are District 2-AAA Champions.
SCHS (26-4 overall) won this year's title Saturday night with an amazing 60-58 victory over rival Jefferson County (22-9), and a team of Patriots that just would not quit.
Sevier County star and Delta State signee Devin Schmidt, who finished with a game-high 36 points, said before the game that he thought his team would win.
"We have a really good gameplan," he said.
Apparently, coach Ken Wright's idea of a good gameplan involves his star player going thermonuclear in the game's first half, and then providing an encore when things get close late.
Schmidt scored 22 first half points, including a spectacular first quarter showing that included moves that looked as though they'd been lifted from a Rucker Park highlight reel, to push the Bears to a 35-21 lead.
"We started out the game in what we call our 'Devin offense,'" Wright said. "Our power offense where we just set a lot of screens for Devin and let him see if he can get hot, and boy, did he ever."
Early in the second half, suffering from what coach Ken Wright called dehydration, Schmidt started out on the bench, and the Patriots rallied to close the lead to just four points, 42-38, heading into the final eight minutes.
"I didn't realize he had gotten as winded as he did, he'd gotten dehydrated there, and that was my problem," Wright said. "I was like the crowd, I was into watching him.
"(So) we kept him out to start the second half, and it took him a little while to get his legs back the second half."
A fired-up Patriots team looked poise to make a heart-breaking run, but Schmidt and his teammates would have none of it.
Using a trio of the senior's 3-pointers, a pair of buckets from Jacob Whaley and Weston Underwood, and a heavy dose of the athleticism of senior Logan McCarter, the Purple and White staved off Jefferson County's charge and sealed the emotional victory.
"Basketball's a game of runs," Wright said. "And I told the guys, 'They're a great team and they're going to make a run the second half, and we just have to hold on and have that last run,' and we did.
"(And) Logan McCarter stepped up there and hit some huge free throws (3-of-4 late)."
While a few spectators in the crowd laughingly referred to the first half as the Devin Schmidt Show, the star player's teammates played a huge role in building the big lead.
Solid offensive play from point guard Jacob Whaley and forward Cody Underwood kept the Jefferson County defense somewhat honest on Schmidt, which allowed the Bears a 17-5 run to start the game.
Between a pair of triples from Schmidt and another 3-ball from Underwood, SCHS connected on their first three baskets.
Moments later, after another flurry of Schmidt shots and a Logan McCarter layup, the score stood at 17-5.
Jefferson County's Brice Cusick and Noah Carter kept the score from getting too out of hand, however, with Carter's outside shooting and Cusick's big play in the post.
While Schmidt's 36 led the Bears, seven of McCarter's nine points came in the stretch run for SCHS.
Whaley also had a good night running the point and finished with six. Cody Underwood scored seven, all in the first half, and Weston Underwood added two.
Despite the lopsided scoring in the scorebook, Wright said his team is not jealous of Schmidt's scoring or accolades.
"The guys understand," the coach said. "They're a team, and when you're a team you understand, when you've got a guy that's on fire, you get him the basketball.
"Devin's been our leader the whole year."
Wright, who's coached NCAA Final Four participants and an NBA player in the high school ranks, was almost speechless with his star's most recent performance, however.
"It was just an incredible performance by a young man," he said. "I've coached some All-Americans, but it's hard to beat that performance you saw out here tonight."
Cusick led Jefferson County with 16, while Chase McGhee tallied 12 and Carter had 11.
The teams won't know who they'll face at the Region 1 tournament until District 1-AAA finished up their tournament early this week.