Hardee's Classic: Crockett falls short, Boone captures fifth
By Christopher ShieldsFor the past 24 years the Hardee’s Classic at David Crockett High School has highlighted the transition from the gridiron to the hardwood for area basketball teams and fans.
The 17-game event included host school David Crockett as well as Washington County rival Daniel Boone.
The Pioneers (6-2) were perfect through the first three days of the tournament, before falling to Unicoi County (7-0) in Saturday’s game.
The Blazers shook off a narrow defeat early in the week to eventually capture fifth at the Classic.
Unicoi County spoils Pioneers run for first
After coasting through their first three games of the tournament, David Crockett was up by a point with just 10 seconds left and on the cusp of a Hardees Classic championship.
But Unicoi County, a three-time Classic winner, had other ideas.
The Blue Devils’ tournament MVP Connor Simpson scored with just seconds left to give Unicoi County the lead and with it the Hardee’s Classic Championship.
The Pioneers opened play in the tournament on Nov. 25 against University High. Crockett sophomore Patrick Good poured in 22 points to lead the Pioneers to a 66-52 win.
Following a Pioneer controlled first half, the Junior Bucs cut the double-digit Pioneer lead to just seven points. Crockett wouldn’t allow the contest to get any closer, closing out the third by stretching the lead back to double-digits and securing the game for the Pioneers.
The Pioneers returned to the court on Nov. 26 in the quarterfinals against day-one winner and last year’s Classic Champion, Greeneville.
Crockett used the dual attack of Dustin Day and Patrick Good to thwart several Devil pushes throughout the contest to capture a 67-57 victory. The Pioneer pair combined for 46 points (Day 24, Good 22) in the game.
A combination of poor shooting and good defense jump-started the Pioneers to a 13-6 lead in the first quarter, but Greeneville cut into the deficit by the half, trailing by just one.
The Green Devils overtook the Pioneers in the third quarter and the teams entered the final eight minutes with Greeneville ahead 43-41. But the John Good-coached team was focused on outlasting the opponents at the end of contests.
Good’s style worked to perfection as the Pioneers turned a two-point lead late in the game, to a 10-point win. Crockett scored the final eight points of the game.
Following a two-day recess for Thanksgiving, Crockett returned to the court on Nov. 29 in the semifinals of the Classic against Sullivan East. The Patriots proved no match for what is quickly becoming Crockett’s dynamic duo, Day and Good. The Pioneers captured a decisive 86-68 win.
Leading the Crockett effort was Day, putting together the best performance of his Pioneer career with 32 points. Good added 23 points.
The semifinal win set up an interesting championship Saturday between the Pioneers and Blue Devils of Unicoi County.
The two teams met just a couple of weeks ago with the Blue Devils having little trouble against the Pioneers in a 66-49 win in Unicoi.
On their home floor, in the championship of their own tournament, Crockett would be ready the second time around.
Defense ruled the contest as Unicoi County jumped out to 15-8 lead after the first quarter.
A low-scoring second sent the teams to the half with the Blue Devils maintaining a 21-15 lead.
But Crockett faltered at the beginning of the second half and Unicoi took advantage, building a 29-15 lead just minutes into the third quarter.
The resilient Pioneers shot themselves back to life, relying on the three to get back in it. Crockett cut the 14-point lead to just four points by the end of quarter.
Good opened the fourth quarter for the Pioneers with two straight three-pointers to tie the contest at 39.
Crockett’s first lead of the game came with under a minute to play when Good converted both free throw attempts to put the Pioneers up 52-51.
But the lead wouldn’t last as Unicoi’s Simpson scored in the final seconds on a close shot to give the Blue Devils the 53-52 win.
The shot denied Crockett of the championship and gave Unicoi their fourth Hardee’s Classic title in 24 years. The Blue Devils now join Sullivan East as the only teams to have four Classic championships.
Crockett will look to move past the narrow defeat this week with upcoming games against Sullivan Central on Dec. 3 at home and against rival Daniel Boone on Dec. 6 in Gray.
Boone shakes off early loss to capture fifth
With key losses from last year’s team and several new additions this season, the Hardee’s Classic was all about self-discovery for Daniel Boone. Boone opened play in the Hardee’s Classic on Nov. 25 against Happy Valley with the most dominant performance of the evening in a 78-43 win.
Boone shook off a slow start, trailing by six points midway through the first quarter, to take a 19-point lead into the half.
The Blazers opened the second half on 17-0 run and never looked back. Leading the Boone effort was freshman Holden Hensley who finished with 15 points.
Also reaching double-figures for the Blazers was a pair of seniors — Ty Jones and Zach Rafalowski — who each contributed 11 points.
The big win wouldn’t carryover a day later for the Blazers in their second game of the tournament in a 52-48 loss to Sullivan South on Nov. 26.
They opened the contest with an 18-2 first quarter lead and maintained a double-digit advantage through most of the first three quarters.
But in the fourth, Boone collapsed, allowing the Rebels to go on a 16-2 run and take their first lead of the contest.
The Blazers would never recover, falling to South and dropping to the tournament’s consolation bracket.
The Blazers returned to play in the Classic after Thanksgiving, rejuvenated and seemingly unaffected by the collapse against South.
Against a talented Greeneville team on Nov. 29, Boone needed to come from behind to capture a 63-54 victory.
Despite maintaining a 34-29 lead at the half, Boone once again started to falter in the second half, eventually falling behind 38-36. But this time, Boone refused to let the contest slip away.
The Blazers responded over the final minutes of third quarter to take an eight-point lead. Dillon Reppart led the way for the Blazers with 19 points.
The win set the Blazers up for a Nov. 30 contest against Cherokee in the fifth place game. This time it would be Boone finishing with a furious fourth-quarter comeback to force overtime where they would eventually take a 62-60 win.
Cherokee opened the contest with a 10-point first-quarter lead and controlled a 25-21 advantage at the half.
In the third, Boone was outscored 16-6 and faced an uphill climb in the fourth quarter, but the Blazers responded.
Boone cut into the Cherokee lead in the final quarter but could never get closer than 10 points. With just three minutes left in the contest, the Blazers started their run capping off the final minutes on an 8-0 run to send the game to overtime.
After the let down against South, Boone finished the Classic playing their best ball of the season. They will look to continue their strong play this week at home with a pair of conference contests beginning on Dec. 3 against Volunteer and on Dec. 6 against Washington County rival David Crockett.