Hancock County wins OT thriller over 'Dogs

By Allen LaMountain
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

   Just like Santa will do on Christmas Eve, Aaron Seals' buzzer-beating three-pointer came straight down the chimney. With it, Seal gift wrapped a 63-60 overtime win to his Hancock County mates as the Indians prevailed over the Hampton Bulldogs to take fifth place at the McClain's-Shoun's Invitational on Friday afternoon at Van Huss-White Gym.
   With his team trailing 24-8 -- and looking lackluster -- in the second period, Hampton head coach Jerry White pulled his starting five from the floor and sent in the second five.
   "Those guys got us back in the game," said White. "That first quarter was a disaster. We took bad shots and weren't patient on offense."
   The 'Dogs closed the score to 35-22 at the break, with Mitchell Morton supplying six points, Adam Miller three points and Josh Moss two to the 'Dogs comeback effort.
   In the third period the Hampton starting five returned and played a trapping defense that forced the Indians into seven third period turnovers. The 'Dogs outscored Hancock County 21-10 in the period -- including scoring the first 10 points of the period -- to close to within 45-43 going into the final stanza.
   Ryan Deskins led all scorers with 26 points on the night, including 13 third quarter points that helped lead the Hampton charge.
   "Hampton made a good run at us," said Indians head coach Tony Seal. "Play got more physical than we're used to, plus we got some guys hurt, and we had a too many turnovers."
   Hampton's defensive intensity carried over into the fourth period, as they held the high-scoring Tribe to just six points in the stanza.
   In overtime, Josh Fleenor canned a deuce for Hancock County and Matt Campbell answered for Hampton. Rocky Nichols put in a bucket and Seal canned a pair of free throws as Hancock took a 60-56 lead in the contest.
   Deskins hit a bucket and after a Tribe turnover, Kevin Harrison canned two crucial free throws to tie the game at 60-60. With three ticks on the clock Hancock inbounded the ball to Seal who launched an NBA three as the buzzer sounded.
   "We needed this win bad," said Seal. "I saw some kids grow up tonight. We could have folded when Hampton made their run, but we got down to it and matched Hampton's physical play."
   Seventh place
   Cloudland 62
   North Greene 61
   Another physical contest took place in the opener -- a game that pitted Watauga Valley Conference foes Cloudland and North Greene -- in the tussle for seventh place.
   Caleb Denton's 19 points offset a 19-point performance by Huskies center Jason Hickman as the 'Landers held on for a 62-61 win.
   "We haven't been playing well of late, but I think we played better today," said Huskies head coach David McClain. "We need to get more scoring from our guards. Hickman and Collins can't do it all, but we have a player back from injury, Josh Gibson, that will help us."
   Cloudland led 34-32 at intermission in a foul plagued contest that saw three players foul out and McClain whistled for a technical foul early in the second period.
   The 'Landers ripped off a 10-0 run to open the second half's action, on the way to a 51-48 lead going into the final quarter of play.
   North Greene opened the fourth quarter with a trey by Dustin Collins and a deuce by Josh Gibson to take a 53-51 lead, before Mark Byrd got a mid-court steal and layed in a bucket to tie the game at 53-53.
   Hickman hit a basket at the other end, then hit one-of-two from the charity stripe for a 56-53 Husky lead at the 4:14 mark of regulation.
   Robbie Tolley hit one free throw and Ricky Whitehead scored a deuce in front of a Collins bucket as the Huskies maintained a two-point advantage.
   A Byrd free throw cut the lead to 58-57. A bucket by Denton and two free throws by Kevin Jones gave the 'Landers a 61-58 lead with 24 seconds left.
   Denton's free throw gave Cloudland a 62-58 lead, but a free throw by Gibson and a bucket by Hickman gave the Huskies life, but not enough time remained for North Greene to gain possession, and Cloudland had escaped with a win.
   "We got after it on defense, and that's what we needed to do," said 'Landers head coach Ned Smith. "I think we are coming out of our slump. This is a game we can build on. We aren't playing as well as we can, but it's starting to come around."