DANDRIDGE – With the Region 1-AAA championship in their grasp, the No. 6 ranked Jefferson County Patriots simply could not hold on. Tied at 43 in the fourth quarter, the Patriots allowed a 9-1 run against Dobyns-Bennett to end their title dreams. Despite the defeat, all is not lost for Coach Chris Poore’s squad. They will travel to face Powell on Monday night after they upset Oak Ridge, 72-70 in Knoxville. With a win over Powell, the Patriots will advance to Murfreesboro and play in the TSSAA state tournament. However, a loss on Monday will end the season for the Patriots. For Poore, the game against Powell is a meeting he believes his squad can win.
“Powell is a disciplined team and they try to slow the game down,” said Poore. “But, I believe we can go on the road and win. I have all of the faith in the world with our team.”
On Thursday night, the Patriots appeared to have the upper hand after tying the game at 43, but the Indians responded in a big way with a 9-1 run over a two-minute span. Josh Holt highlighted the run by converted a 3-point play. The Patriots failed to hit a field goal over a five minute span in the fourth before Noah Carter put in a basket with 2:03 remaining.
Tournament MVP Tyleke Love pumped in a game-high 19 points. Devin Stuart and John Fulkerson added 10 points in the win. Jefferson County was led by Bryce Cusick with 12 points, while Kyle Briggs and John Bryant added 11 each and Carter 10.
Poore says when the game was tied and up for grabs that his team simply went downhill.
“We wanted to win this game and it was anybody’s ball game, but we made too many mistakes in the fourth quarter,” said Poore. “I told the team at the beginning of the fourth quarter that the team that made the least mistakes would win. Unfortunately for us, we were the team that made the most mistakes. We could have closed out this game and it would have been a big win for our school. But, we are in the same boat as Kingsport is right now, we must win one more game to make it to the state tournament.”
In the first quarter, Jefferson County jumped out to an 8-6 lead after Cusick converted a shot in the paint with 4:15 showing.
A minute later, Briggs converted a layup after a steal by Carter to up the lead to 11-8. Before the period ended, Love nailed a trey, but Jefferson County’s Corey Jenkins hit a sky hook to give the Patriots a 15-11 lead after one.
In the second, Cusick extended the lead to 21-15 with a long jump shot with 5:42, but the Indians responded with a small scoring run over the next minute. Stuart scored four points and Holt added a basket as the Indians tied the game at 21 with 4:45 left until the break.
The Indians grabbed their first lead of the game at 24-23 after Love stole an errant pass and converted a layup with 3:41 showing. Both teams traded baskets before the half ended, but Dobyns-Bennett closed out the first half with a 30-27 advantage after a basket from Love with less than a minute remaining.
Love led all scorers in the first half with 13 points for Dobyns-Bennett. Jefferson County was led in the opening half with 6 points apiece from Carter, Cusick, and Briggs.
In the third quarter, Fulkerson landed a monster dunk and was fouled on the play with 5:21 left. Fulkerson missed the free-throw, but the basket gave the Indians a 34-30 lead. Jefferson County’s John Bryant scored the first 7 points for Jefferson County to close the gap to 36-34 at the 3:58 mark. Bryant hit 5 free-throws before giving the Patriots their first field goal of the half.
Later, Cusick kept Jefferson County close with a basket with 49 seconds remaining. Cusick’s basket in the paint closed the gap to 40-38. Cusick later tied the game with at 40 with 9 seconds remaining with a layup. However, Jefferson County committed a foul and Holt nailed converted one out of two free throws to send the Indians up 41-40 after three.
Jefferson County’s John Bryant, Noah Carter, and Bryce Cusick. Cocke County’s Dylan Dockery, David Crockett’s Patrick Good, Sevier County’s Jacob Whaley, TN High’s Caleb Easterling, DB’s John Fulkerson, Paul Gadson.
-By Chris Ayers, Assistant Sports Editor