Trojans rally for important IMAC win
Morristown West’s Jake Logan (24) goes up for a shot while South-Doyle’s Jarquese Goines defends during Wednesday’s game in Knoxville.
KNOXVILLE — Trailing by 8 entering the fourth period with district tournament seeding and a possible by on the line, the Morristown West Trojans found a way to win while not playing their best Wednesday night at South-Doyle.
The Trojans opened the fourth on a 10-0 run to take their first lead of the second half, and Logan Willis converted an acrobatic 3-point play with 29.1 seconds left that put West up for good in a 36-33 victory over the Cherokees in Knoxville.
Aaron Jones led West (12-12, 7-6 IMAC) with 12 points in the win, while Willis had 7 and Kenny Watson chipped in 6 for the Trojans.
Miles Thomas led the Cherokees (6-18, 4-9 IMAC) in the loss with 14 points.
While pleased with the win, West coach Derek Creech was less than enthused about his team’s lack of readiness against a South-Doyle team that had won two straight coming in.
“I’ll take the blame for this, but we had some guys not ready to play tonight,” Creech said. “You can’t go on the road in this league against a team that has beaten Seymour on back-to-back nights and not be ready to play. But to our kids’ credit, they turned the wick up and found a way to win.”
Creech said he knew it would be a difficult task to go on the road and get a victory against the athletic Cherokees, but the fact his team survived two brutal offensive periods to get the win made him a proud coach at the end of the night.
“I’ve won a few games in this place, but none of them have been easy,” Creech said. “We got some shots to go in early, but nothing went in during the second quarter. There wasn’t a lot that went in during the third either, but you have to play through that. We went to a little full court press in the fourth and got them a little rattled, and that helped us get some baskets. I’m proud of the effort of our guys late.”
West controlled the opening period, with Jones and Watson helping the Trojans take an 11-4 lead with a pair of buckets each in the frame. After Thomas hit a shot for South-Doyle, Josh Black beat the horn with a layup to make it 13-6 after one quarter.
The Cherokees completely dominated the middle two periods, including a 7-0 run to start the second period that tied it at 13. After Jones hit a short jumper to give West the lead again, Malik Allen buried a late 3-pointer to put South-Doyle on top 16-15 at the half.
The third quarter was more of the same, as the Cherokees closed the frame on an 8-0 run to turn a tie game into a 29-21 lead for the home team going to the fourth.
Jones hit a jumper and added a 3-point play to tie the game with less than three minutes left, and Darius Mathes capped a 10-0 run with a layup to put the Trojans up 31-29 with 1:55 left. South-Doyle tied it twice in the late stages, but Willis hit an off balance runner in the lane while being hammered to the floor, and his free throw turned out to be the final points of the night.
The Cherokees missed three 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds, with Black getting a rebound on the last one to seal the victory.
West will be back on the court Friday when they host cross-town rival Morristown East on senior night at 8 p.m.
-By Matt Daniels, Tribune Sports Editor