'Dogs zip by North, HV ousted

By Jeff Birchfield

   KINGSPORT -- Hampton exploded for a 22-2 run in the late second and early third quarters, then never looked back to defeat Sullivan North 66-44 in the opening round of the District 1-AA basketball tournament held Monday night at the Golden Raiders' Gym.
   Key to Hampton's success was dominance on the boards, where they outrebounded the Raiders by over a two-to-one margin.
   "I thought we did a good job on the boards," said Bulldog head coach Jerry White. "We played our defense pretty good. We defended their big man well. They hit a few threes on us, but you have to give up something somewhere. We did get on the boards well. We had been harping on that."
   Zack Ensor was the 'Dawg with the most bite, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
   "We went out and everybody boxed out," said Ensor. "We tried to shut their inside down as much as possible. That was just execution. We just came down and played ball."
   The Bulldogs jumped out early to an 11-1 lead with three scores by Ensor and two by Matthew Campbell. North closed the gap down to two at 17-15 on back-to-back treys by Josh Arnold, before the 'Dogs ripped the Raiders the next 12 minutes of the game.
   After the Bulldog tear, North managed to get no closer than 19 points the rest of the way despite a 16-point effort from Arnold.
   Phillip Scarsellone had 13 points for the Raiders, but the big man never really got on track, hitting just four field goals in the contest.
   The loss was especially disappointing to North coach John McCrary, whose team bested the Bulldogs the last time they met on this floor.
   "The difference was that they made shots and we didn't," commented McCrary. "That was pretty much it. They doubled our post and left us open on the outside. We couldn't make our threes and the game got away from us.
   "We struggled on the boards, just like we have all year. We were crippled coming into the game. We only had eight guys in practice. Our post player Kevin Arnold hurt his knee against Lee County and didn't even dress. Phillip sprained his ankle on Saturday, but he played like a warrior. That's not to take anything from Hampton. They did a good job executing their offense and we stayed a step behind him."
   The fact that the 'Dogs won round one of the tourney on enemy territory was not lost on coach White.
   "It had me real worried when I knew we had to play them on their home floor," said White. "But, we came out focused and ready to play. It seemed like we countered them every time they made a shot."
   Ryan Deskins was a workhorse inside for Hampton, scoring 15 points with nine of those coming as a result of free throws. Jeremy Hall was also a force in the middle with 10 points.
   Other big contributors were Jeff Clark and Ryan Deskins, who each added eight in the Bulldog triumph.
   "This was a big win," stated White, whose team now stands at 18-11. "There is no tomorrow. We executed our offense real well and took our good shots and made a good shooting percentage. I was well pleased with it."
   Sullivan Central 53
   Happy Valley 45
   The Cougars threatened to blow open the game early and the Warriors bounced back, but in the end there was too much size and athleticism in Central's 53-45 nightcap win.
   "We came back good in the second quarter," said Happy Valley head coach Charlie Bayless. "We didn't do too bad in the third quarter, but the fourth quarter killed us. They got too many loose balls and went up for wide open shots.
   "They outrebounded us and beat us under the boards. We went to a man-to-man (defense) and we couldn't guard their big boys. We just didn't have enough size. We were just manhandled."
   Happy Valley came back from a 8-0 deficit to start the game to take a 24-23 lead on a Tim Whaley basket right before halftime. Central 18-12 began to assert themselves in the third quarter with the athletic John LeSueur making big plays on both ends of the floor.
   LeSueur and backcourt mate Josh Crain continued to make spectacular moves throughout the rest of the game, turning back a HV rally that had cut the lead to a mere four points at 43-39 in the final quarter on a bucket and free throw by Lamar Rollins.
   LeSueur paced the Cougar attack with a team-high 16 points, while Crain was good for 10 points and six assists.
   "Both of them moved well and passed the ball well against the zone," said Sullivan Central head coach Tony Vaughn. "They have some quickness to take the ball to the goal. Both of them turned it up a notch in the second half and penetrated. That helped us."
   On the inside, the Warriors were having a tough time matching up with the duo of Matt Dunford and Josh O'dell. Dunford had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Cougars, while O'dell chipped in eight.
   "O'dell posted up well inside for us," remarked Vaughn. "We were bigger than they were. That was a big difference in the ballgame. The kids set some goals and we are taking small steps at a time."
   The Warriors also received some outstanding individual efforts. Chris Campbell scored 13 first half points en' route to a game-high 18 to lead HV, while Rollins had a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards.
   Whaley added eight for the Warriors with Andy Hilton and Adam Smith rounding out the scoring pylon with four points apiece.
   However, it ended up being the final chapter in a frustrating season for HV. "We never got get it all together," said Bayless, whose team ended with a 8-16 worksheet. "We played one or two good quarters, but we couldn't get nothing together. We did in about six games, but the rest of them we only played about two quarters good.
   "We didn't shoot well. We had to dress four freshmen this year. It makes it tough when you have to dress freshmen. You need seniors and juniors on most good ballclubs."
   For the Cougars, they advance to face Hampton in the second round. Like HV, the Bulldogs split with Central in the regular season making Vaughn shy away from any pre-game predictions. "Anything can happen from here on out," said Vaughn. "They wore us out at Hampton and we beat them pretty good at our place. So, it's whoever is hot from the outside. I would say it's a toss-up right now.
   "They're a little stronger inside than Happy Valley. Jerry (White) has them play man and that 1-3-1, so our kids have to be consistent. We just have to worry about ourselves and whatever happens, happens."
   Note: Coach Bayless was honored before the game by his fellow TSSAA coaches, receiving a special plaque commemorating the coaches' 855 wins and 50 years in the profession.