Smith 3-pointer caps dramatic tournament win for Jr. 'Clones

By Ivan Sanders

STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

   The NBA has the legendary George Gervin, better known as the "Iceman." T.A. Dugger found a little bit of the "Iceman" in one of their own on Thursday night as Preston Smith released a shot just beyond the arc with less than three seconds remaining to help the Jr. Cyclones stage a dramatic come-from-behind win over Unicoi County in overtime by a score of 39-38 at John Sevier Middle School in Kingsport.
   "I am so extremely proud of these guys," stated Jr. Cyclone coach James Jacobs. "We didn't have the lead until the end and the guys that played out there tonight played their hearts out with a never-quit attitude."
   The sixth-seeded Patriots gave the Jr. Cyclones all they wanted and more for the 24:00 minutes of regulation play. Unicoi Co. grabbed the lead right from the get-go as they staked their claim to a 9-7 edge after the first quarter of play.
   It was a battle between Smith and Ryan Scott of the Patriots in the period as both found scoring success in racking up five points each while Thomas Justice gave UC the lead by hitting a field goal as time expired.
   The Jr. Cyclones were hung on seven again in the second period, but this time managed to play an aggressive zone to hold the Patriots to only six in the same stanza. Austin Taylor started heating up in the quarter as he collected five in the quarter with Brent Shaver netting the other two points for TAD.
   Unicoi Co. looked to their big man to carry them in the quarter as Ike Weaver used his size and strength to bully his way for all six of the Patriot's points. Unicoi Co. managed to cling barely to an one point advantage at intermission by the score of 15-14.
   The Patriots seemed to have a little more pep to their step in the opening quarter of the second half as they outgunned the Jr. 'Clones by a three point margin, 10-7 and maintain a four-point spread entering the last period.Taylor added six more to his total while Scott and McCormick added one trey each to pace UC.
   Whoever says that middle school basketball isn't exciting should have been sitting in on this one as TAD evened the ledger at 27-27 with 2:19 remaining on a steal and a lay up by Smith.
   Brian Jenkins gave TAD their only lead in regulation at 29-27 on a short base-line jumper with 1:00 minute remaining after the Jr. Cyclones took over 2:00 minutes off the clock by letting the air out of the ball.
   Jenkins said that the play of the Jr. Cyclones was nothing unusual for the team. "We step it up when we have to," quipped Jenkins after the contest.
   The lead was short lived for the 'Clones as Justice hit a field goal with :37 left to even the score after Unicoi's coach called timeout just before Scott buried a trey that would have given the Patriots a one-point lead. At the end of regulation, the score was knotted at 29-29.
   Jenkins and Weaver came out strong for their respective teams early in the 3:00 minute overtime with Jenkins burning the nets for five and Weaver muscling inside for four points. The dramatic conclusion of the game came down to the last :07.6 of the game when Jacobs called a timeout to set the stage for Smith's shot.
   When the game resumed, Smith worked his way off a pick by Travis Bishop and with ice water running through his veins, drilled the game-winning shot that set off a mad celebration at game's end.
   "All I could think was make it and don't miss it," stated Smith outside the winner's locker room with Taylor at his side.
   Added Taylor: "We are fired up and ready for our next game. Will have three days to practice and we'll be ready."
   Where smiles and elation was oozing from the T.A. Dugger faithful after the game, Patriot coach Ken Hillard couldn't do nothing but shake his head.
   "We have lost three games on last-second shots in overtime with two of them being to these guys," said Hillard. "The game was nip and tuck the whole way and I tell you those guys have a good team and I wish them the best of luck."
   Taylor led the 'Clones with 13 with Smith tallying 10 for TAD. Weaver, who was named all-tourney, led the Patriots with 13 while Scott contributed with 8 points.
   T.A. Dugger now must prepare quickly to match up against a very good John Sevier team Monday night at 6 pm at John Sevier Middle. If they fare well in that game, they will advance to the Big 7 Championship on Thursday at 6:30 pm.