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Hardee’s Classic: David Crockett falls in final game


H&T Correspondent

Just when it looked like David Crockett’s boys basketball team would double the pleasure of second-year coach Cody Connell in the Hardee’s Classic, South Greene doubled down on determination in the championship game Saturday at Crockett.

The Rebels pulled off their third-straight comeback victory by outlasting Crockett 64-60 in double overtime to win the 31st annual tournament.

The defending champion Pioneers went on a 9-0 run to take a 47-45 lead when 6-foot-4 senior Mason Britton made both ends of one-and-one free throws with just over a minute remaining, and Crockett regained possession with the lead.

But a turnover led to a Jay Higgins transition lay-in with 49 seconds left that forced overtime.

Crockett’s Ayden Begley forced a second overtime by catching an inbounds pass and hitting a 3-pointer from the right wing with 4.8 seconds remaining. Begley made a pair of free throws with 2:22 remaining to give the Pioneers their final lead (58-57).

Mr. Football finalist Luke Myers scored 11 of his 20 points after the third quarter, including a 7-footer via a spin move that gave the Rebels the lead for good (59-58) with two minutes to go.

“We’re down seven I think with probably two minutes to go in the fourth and my guys hit some big shots to get us back in it, tie it up,” Connell said. “We had a chance to win. Just didn’t get the shot we wanted. We went the wrong direction.

“Hats off to those guys. They played great and did what they were supposed to do. They deserved to win.”

Begley led Crockett with 19 points, including five 3-pointers, and fellow senior Mason Britton, a 6-foot-4 wing, added 14 points. Post Colton Estep scored 11.

Begley and Britton made the All-Hardee’s Classic team, as did junior guard Isaiah Lang. Lang scored eight points in the championship. His difficult leaner near the basket tied the score, 45-45, with 1:33 left in regulation.

Britton scored 24 points, including four 3-pointers, in Crockett’s 71-70 defeat of North Greene in the semifinals. The Huskies are coached by former Crockett player Sam Tarlton.

“I had that first one fall in the second there and I just felt hot,” Britton said. “Coaches told me to keep taking it to the hole, keep shooting. We had mismatches all night. My teammates set me up for great opportunities and I just took advantage of ‘em.”

Estep and Begley scored 16 and 13 points, respectively, against North Greene. Begley made three treys.

Crockett (3-1) was scheduled to host South Greene again on Tuesday, Dec. 1 after press time for the Herald and Tribune. The Pioneers are getting 20 points per game from Britton and 17 from Begley, who had nine assists against North Greene.

Daniel Boone (4-1) recorded an encouraging 64-54 win against the solid North Greene squad in the third-place game. Samuel Stroupe scored 17 points and made five 3-pointers.

The Trailblazers also got solid performances from Breiydon Gilliam (14 points) and Nevada Goodwin (12), as well as point guard Caleb Head (nine points) and freshman Lucas Jenkins (eight points).

South Greene’s Myers converted a game-winning drive against Boone with 1.7 seconds left for a 58-56 semifinal victory.

Gilliam led Boone with 16 points against the Rebels. Stroupe and Head added 10 and nine, respectively.

Gilliam, a Cherokee transfer, and Goodwin had big games in the Trailblazers’ 66-56 defeat of Cocke County in the quarterfinals. Gilliam scored 24 points and Goodwin added 22.

Gilliam is averaging 20.2 points per game.

“We know what we’re gonna get with him,” Boone Coach Chris Brown said. “He’s physical and he can go to the rack.”

Goodwin is averaging 10.5 points and seven rebounds.

“He’s gotten stronger and you can see it,” Brown said. “He’s able to go longer. … You’ve gotta defend him on the perimeter. He’s versatility for us that can cause some problems.”

Head is averaging six assists and two steals.

“He gives us a lot of leadership,” Brown said. “He’s a captain out there, tries to put guys in the right spots.”

Boone is scheduled to visit Volunteer on Friday.

Former Crockett Coach John Good, whose Unicoi County team went 2-1 to finish fifth, was impressed with how the Hardee’s Classic was run, especially during a pandemic, thanks to the likes of Connell and Gouge, athletic director Josh Kite and tireless staffer Chris Kudera.

“I think Josh and Cody and Thomas did a great job with the way they ran everything,” Good said. “I thought it was first-class, especially considering all the hoops they had to jump through.” 

David Crockett’s girls were well on their way to a Hardee’s Classic title, or so it seemed, when Cocke County caught fire in the championship game.

After falling behind 38-29 early in the third quarter, the Lady Red went on a surreal 19-0 run against the defensive-minded Pioneers of first-year coach Thomas Gouge and held on for a 71-61 victory.

Cocke County made nine straight shots, including five 3-pointers.

“I’ve been coaching for 16 years,” Gouge said. “I’ve not seen a team shoot the ball that well in a three- or four-minute span. We had to call two timeouts. …

“We really wanted to win this game tonight. We really wanted to make a statement, because the girls got to this game last year and lost it. We had our chances. We went to halftime with a seven-point lead and came out and pushed it to nine.”

Sydney Clevenger led Cocke County with 20 points. Teammate Cameron Halcomb was named tournament MVP.

Emma Gouge (17 points), Alyssa Suits and Mackenzie Baldwin (15) made the all-tournament team.

Crockett got to the championship game with defense. It forced 30 turnovers in a quarterfinal win against Sullivan South and piled up 32 more during an overwhelming 53-22 win against Tennessee High in the semifinals Tuesday.

Crockett held Tennessee High to nine points for more than 21 minutes to start the game.

“We’ve got good players,” Gouge said. “We’ve got great athletes that want this so bad. … They want to be good and they show it on the court with their defense and their effort.”

Nora Walters and Emma Gouge scored 11 points apiece for Crockett.