GATLINBURG — Northview Academy found early success against the Gatlinburg-Pittman boys basketball team in the 3AA district tournament semifinals on Saturday night, but the Highlanders started pressing which rattled the Cougars, and G-P came back from a first quarter double digit deficit to win 74-56.

The Highlanders (22-6) used a balanced scoring attack in the win with five players scoring more than eight points and four of those in double figures led by Ethan Stinnett with 18.

“That has been a staple of our group for a couple years now,” Gatlinburg-Pittman head coach Rashid Moore said. “We have had a few guys consistently scoring in double figures. It can be four to six guys that can get double figures. That is something we have taken advantage of down the stretch especially in a COVID year, because we played some games without some guys.”

The Cougars jumped out to a 16-6 early lead, but then Highlanders big man Kevin Burkett knocked down two triples and the lead vanished quickly as Northview only led 18-16 after one quarter.

Wyatt Smith gave the Gatlinburg-Pittman the lead, 25-23, midway through the second quarter, and from there on they never looked back and Northview never regained the lead.

“First of all, hats off to Northview,” Moore said. “They came out ready to go, and they were getting buckets. We couldn’t get a stop early, but we decided to wake up and raise the bar, and once we did that we were able to climb back into it.”

The Highlanders press they initiated started to bother the Cougars (8-17), and it raised their energy level which led to the surge late in the first quarter and second quarter, and Northview Academy head coach Cory Harkleroad thought that changed the game.

“Credit to Coach Moore, because (their press) was a good call. I feel like early before they started the pressure we did a good job in the half court,” he said. “They sped us up a little bit after that.”

The Cougars trailed 31-27 at the half, and while they were down, they weren’t out opening the half on a 8-4 run when senior guard Preston Hickey tied the game at 35.

The contest was tied again for the last time at 37, and that is when the Highlanders made another run pushing their lead to 48-39 by the end of the quarter.

Harkleroad said that the Cougars ran out of gas late in the third quarter and fourth quarter allowing the Highlanders to pull away.

Burkett finished with 13 points, while Briggs Jones and Carlos Orr both had 12 and Houston Byrd added eight in the win.

Northiview Academy was led by Preston Hickey with 18.

Gatlinburg-Pittman hosts Carter for the district tournament championship on Tuesday night at 6:30, while Northview Academy goes to Union County in the consolation game on the same night.

Both teams punched their ticket to the region tournament which starts later this week, and a win for Gatlinburg-Pittman would guarantee home court for them as long as they keep winning which Moore thinks is a huge deal.