Warriors discard Rutledge in OT

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   MORRISTOWN--When the chips were down and the Warriors were faced with needing a great hand to stay in the game, Happy Valley laid down the aces to cash in against Rutledge for a 78-70 overtime win in the Region 1-AA quarterfinals on Tuesday at Morristown West.
   Happy Valley was on the verge of seeing its season coming to an end, trailing by 11 points heading into the final period.
   A defensive and offensive scoring frenzy, which reached over a span of under three minutes, led the Warriors back from extinction to play another day.
   "We went to man-to-man press and were trapping, and then we got the tempo and some things going our way," said Happy Valley coach Charlie Bayless. "They made some mistakes and we got some good baskets."
   Rutledge enjoyed a 51-41 advantage with six and a half minutes left in regulation, but a three-pointer from Ryan Toney sparked the Warriors to go on a 14-0 run.
   The rally almost gave Happy Valley the victory by the end of the fourth quarter, but once being force to settle it in overtime, the Warriors were not to be denied.
   Alex Carroll led the Warriors on the night by pouring in 21 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. He had a pair of important field goals to start the OT.
   Carroll dumped in 10 points during the first half as Happy Valley fought to a 31-30 battle, with the Pioneers having the slim advantage.
   It was halfway through the second period before Happy Valley enjoyed its first lead, 26-24, when Jeremy Maddox hit a 15-foot jumper off the glass.
   With the Warriors being down just one point at the half, a slow in the third period had Happy Valley falling into the clutches of the Pioneers by quarter's end.
   "We really didn't do that much in the third quarter, but in the fourth we picked each other up and coach got us in a huddle did his usual rah-rah-rah," said Carroll. "Everybody worked together."
   Daniel Singleton led Rutledge with 24 points on the night, and his steal and dunk at the end of the third quarter gave the Pioneers a 47-36 lead with one period left.
   The Warriors finally got rolling on both defense and offense in the fourth, as several players came off the bench to give key support.
   Andrew Bowman stepped up to take a couple of charges, and he finished the night with a solid 14-point effort.
   "Our coaches teach us to step up and take charge, and we were down by 10 or more going into the fourth period, so I knew we had to play good defense," said Bowman. "Our defense got them rattled and that's where our offense starting coming from."
   Happy Valley managed to tie the contest with 4:48 left, when Tim Whaley made a strong move inside to draw a foul for a three-point play.
   A slam dunk from Carroll handed the Warriors the lead, as they went up by as many as six points with under two minutes left.
   Rutledge answered with two three-point plays to tie the contest, when Singleton drew the foul and basket, and Matt Day nailed a shot from beyond the three-point line.
   The Warriors had a chance at a game-winning bucket, but a pass from Chris Rutledge to Whaley sailed out of bounds with four seconds left.
   Once both teams reached overtime, it was all in the corner of Happy Valley as it outshined the Pioneers the rest of the way.
   The post players did their job all night on the boards and inside to take over down the stretch.
   A free-throw from Whaley after drawing a foul inside, and a couple of big shots from Carroll enabled the Warriors to score the first nine points of OT.
   "When they made that one three-pointer to send it to overtime, I knew their defense was going to be even greater," said Carroll. "They got me the ball inside and I just turned around shot and made it."
   A fast-break pass from Whaley to Todd Caldwell gave Happy Valley a 68-59 advantage with 1:50 left, as Pioneers were never able to regroup from the late Warrior onslaught.
   Caldwell finished with 17 points on the night, while Bayless led the great victory dance in a ring of huddled up Warriors afterwards.
   "This feels great. There's nothing like winning during the postseason in front of great crowds," said Bayless. "We've got a tough one tomorrow night against Sullivan Central. They beat us twice already this season."
   The Warriors and Cougars tip off at 5:30 today.
   Pigeon Forge 68
   Elizabethton 52
   It was a well-enough played first half for the Cyclones, placing them in excellent position to steal a win in the Region 1-AA quarterfinals.
   However, a combination of frustration and a lack of breaks set the tone in the second half, ending the Cyclone season in a 68-52 loss to Pigeon Forge.
   Elizabethton came out to grab the momentum early, as its defensive pressure and hustle was relentless.
   "I really thought our defense stuff gave us a chance to win, but they're an awful good basketball team," said Elizabethton coach Tony Hardin. "In the second half I thought they did some things defensively to make us turn the ball over."
   The Cyclones enjoyed a 9-8 lead at the end of the first period, when senior guard Brandon Blevins made a steal for a three-point play, after making a basket and drawing a foul.
   "The first half we played really good, but I think we all laid down at halftime," said Blevins. "People said we couldn't place higher than fifth, but we showed them different and that was our goal for the first of the year."
   Elizabethton opened up the second quarter by scoring the first six points to take a 15-8 lead.
   A baseline jumper from Lester Bailey increased the Elizabethton advantage to seven with 6:30 left in the half.
   "We got down on ourselves in the second half. We came out and made two turnovers in a row," said Bailey. "We weren't working as hard as we were the first half, and we needed to play better defense to give us a chance."
   Bradley Brown came off the bench to score a couple of buckets in the closing minutes, which gave Elizabethton a 25-19 lead at halftime.
   Good defense and keeping the larger Tiger team under control on the boards saw Elizabethton stun the number one seed from Region 2-AA.
   "If we could have continued to put points on the board we'd of had a chance, but when you don't score then you have to change your defense and score out of it," said Hardin. "We defended them well early, and our kids never did quit. They're a good basketball team that could end up down the road."
   Pigeon Forge came alive to start the second half, striking with a 15-2 run to start the third period.
   A steal and lay-up by Austin Woodrick with 4:30 left in the third period gave the Tigers a 34-27 lead.
   Three free throws coming from Adam Turley with :09 left cut the Pigeon Forge advantage to six, but a quick lay-up by Matt Day pushed the Tiger margin back to 42-34 with one quarter left.
   "We came out smoking in the first half, and then we lost our mentality and they outplayed us," said Turley. "We had a fun year and no regrets, and we also met two of goals now so we're pretty pleased."
   The Cyclones couldn't buy a bucket when they needed one in the second half, as the games only three-point goal came from Chris Vaughn to start the fourth.
   It was all downhill from then on for Elizabethton, which was outscored by eight points in the final period.
   Charles Peters led Elizabethton in scoring on the night with 10 points, while Turley added nine and Blevins had seven.
   "We started out being picked as finishing seventh and we make it to the region, which ended and is sad now, but we've had a good year," said Hardin. "I'm proud of our kids. They wanted to uphold this program at a certain level, and they did so by getting us to the region."