T.A. Dugger boys, girls reach finals

Photo by Dave Boyd
T.A. Dugger's Jasmine Treadway handles Unicoi's backcourt pressure.
By Michelle Pope

   JOHNSON CITY--In the semifinals of the Middle Eight basketball tournament at Indian Trail on Monday night, the Jr. Cyclones recovered from a lagging first quarter to defeat the Sevier Jr. Warriors in the final 25 seconds.
   With the score tied at 42, Ryan Green stole a Sevier possession, leading to a basket by Bo Carter. The Jr. Warriors received the ball with 13 seconds to fight back, but Aaron Bradford snatched the ball away once again, and passed to Carter on the three-point line. The trey went in, and T.A. Dugger won, 47-42.
   "We had probably at least four overtimes where it didn't go in our favor this year, and we've had at least two or three other games lost on a last-second shot," said TAD coach James Jacobs. "We always hung in there, so I think those game situations prepared us for tonight."
   Three-pointers from Sevier's Marshall Hardy and Tremell McGue helped the Jr. Warriors take the 12-6
lead going into the second quarter, but a quick pep talk from Jacobs seemed to focus the Jr. Cyclones, who bounded onto the court to make a 15-2 scoring run against Sevier.
   Green was the driving force, sinking eight points, while Carter contributed four points. Bradford put a rebound through the hoop, and Wes Anderson added a foul shot. By halftime, TAD had taken the 23-20 lead.
   "We did a good job pushing the ball out when we had it," said Jacobs. "We did a really good job preparing for the game, and the guys were smart. That's something that I've preached all year to them, is be smart, be smart, be smart, until finally, it clicked. Tonight, it clicked for us."
   In the third quarter, Bradford shone defensively for the Jr. Cyclones, making several key steals that led to TAD points. By the time the buzzer signaled the end of the third, the Jr. Cyclones were still up by three points.
   "Defense did a good job on the big tall post (Bronson Flack)," said Jacobs. "That post is really good, and he hurt us the first two games we played them, so we did a good job on him tonight."
   The towering Flack was Sevier's leading scorer, putting down 13 points, and snatching rebounds before they had barely left the board. For TAD, Carter scored a game-high 18 points, with Green a step behind with 14 points. Carter scored eight in the final quarter, while Flack put in seven for Sevier, but several big 'Betsy plays won the game for TAD.
   "We just got out-coached," said Sevier coach Mike Fulkerson. "James did a tremendous job. Coach Jacobs gets his players motivated, and they're playing the best ball in the season. That had something to do with the way we played. T.A. Dugger had a lot to do with that."
   In the TAD girls, tournament matchup, the Jr. Lady Cyclones took advantage of a 4-0 lead by the end of the first quarter against Unicoi County to carry through to the 30-23 win. Kelli Culler scored the bulk of the points with a three-pointer, while Leah Henson added a foul shot. In the second quarter, the Jr. Lady Cyclones went six for eight from the penalty stripe, and with a Henson basket, had the 12-9 lead going into halftime.
   "We came out dead at the first of the game," said Unicoi County coach Andy Bernet. "We didn't even score until halfway through the second quarter. We're bad at this -- we try to turn it on when we have to, instead of at the first of the game. That's what caused this tonight."
   Culler hit two more treys in the third quarter to lead TAD to a 10-point quarter, while the Lady Cyclone defense held the Lady Patriots to four points. Culler was the game's only scorer to hit the double-digits, putting in 12 points.
   The Jr. Lady Patriots rallied in the final quarter, scoring 10 points against TAD's eight. However, three courtesy baskets from Culler, two from Kyla Jones, one from Hannah Fritz, and a field goal from Henson were enough to hold onto the lead, and TAD triumphed.
   Both teams, coaches attributed TAD's win to their strong defensive game.
   "They mixed up their defense really well," Bernet said. "They're a great team. We weren't ready to play, and they outplayed us. They went after the ball more. They wanted it more and they wanted the rebound more."
   "Defense pretty much carried us because our offense was terrible," said Lady Jr. Cyclone coach Angie Barker. "We were 7 for 38. It was just a matter of us settling down and trying to keep control of what we were doing and not worrying about what they were doing."
   Henson followed Culler's leading score by putting in seven points. For Unicoi County, Payge Barnett led with seven points, followed by Alisha Mamer with six.