SEVIERVILLE — Inter Mountain Conference preseason favorite Sevier County took advantage of ice cold shooting by Morristown East in the second half Tuesday night to rack up a 61-47 victory in the league opener for both schools.
The Hurricanes played well in the first two quarters and held a slender 26-25 lead at intermission.
However, the Smoky Bears came out in the third quarter in a man defense and shut the East offense down, mainly by holding the ‘Canes to one shot repeatedly.
Camden McElhaney posted a double-double to lead Sevier County. He tossed in 16 points and raked off 13 rebounds as the Bears improved to 3-1 with the victory.
Wesley Maples contributed 15, Jonathan Zhao-Olmos scored 12 and Marvin Castro and Tyler Wilson nine apiece in a balanced Bears attack.
The Hurricanes’ Micah Simpson took game scoring honors with 20 while Braden Ilic tallied 15. Nobody else had more than five as East fell to 4-3 for the season.
After hitting 50 percent form the floor in the first half (11-of-22), East managed just 8-of-29 in the second to finish the game shooting at a 37.3 clip.
The ‘Canes were just 3-of-12 from behind the arc.
Sevier County shot 21-of-46 for 45.7 percent but made 7-of-17 threes and fired in 12-of-16 free throws to just 6-of-11 for the visitors.
East coach Alden Collins said, “We had some jitters early in the game, but we settled down and did a good job of executing our game plan and came back to develop a lead.
“Sevier started hitting some threes in the second quarter and came back on us and then we didn’t shoot the ball very well in the second half,” he added. “We needed to do a better job of running our offense to get better looks.
“Our missed shots opened up a transition game for Sevier,” Collins added. “They scored several points in transition and allowed them to open up a lead in the third quarter.”
He closed, “They’re a really good team. We continued to fight and scrap but they do a good job of holding you off when they get a lead. They don’t make a lot of mistakes to beat themselves and that’s how they played in the second half.”
Bears’ coach Ken Wright said, “Camden McElhaney was a warrior in the second half tonight. He hit some really big three’s and he was clearing the defensive boards. That’s what we really needed.
“The first half, East just outplayed us,” he added. “They were playing harder and killing us on the boards. I was really disappointed with them at halftime. We made a ton of mistakes and a lot of it was lack of effort.
“We said at the half we were going to pick them up man and we’re going to play. We basically held them to one shot and that made all the difference.”
The Bears jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead before East got going. Shaffer Harville and Ilic hit free throws and then Ilic canned a 15-footer. Olmos scored for the home team, but the Hurricanes gunned in the final 10 points of the half.
Simpson cashed in a pair of threes, Ilic hit another jumper and then Simpson had a steal and layup for a 14-9 lead at the first rest stop.
After Olmos scored to open the second period, Simpson had two more baskets for East’s biggest lead at 18-11. But Castro gunned in a three and McElhaney popped in two more and the Bears were in front by two.
Harville tied it for East before Wilson and Simpson traded buckets. McElhaney fired through another triple, but Ilic hit the last two buckets of the quarter to provide the ‘Canes the one-point lead.
Wilson and Ilic traded baskets to begin the third frame, but the Bears took the lead for good with a six-point run. Castro got the go-ahead bucket and Maples and McElhaney scored and it was 33-28.
Ilic put in two straight field goals for East to get the lead down to one. However, McElhaney rifled in another long bomb, Maples added a basket and free throw and McElhaney scored again and the Bears were up 41-34 at the final break.
Wilson’s three-point play opened the fourth quarter and East didn’t get any closer than seven the rest of the way. Ilic and Simpson both fouled out in the fourth quarter when the Bears kept the Hurricanes at bay by making 11-of-14 charity tosses.