KNOXVILLE—Morristown East boys’ basketball team was in a tight finish on Friday against a Knoxville program, once again. Only this time, East was the one to fall short.
As the Hurricanes of East took a 61-60 lead after Micah Simpson knocked down two foul shots, the Webb Spartans had a chance to win the game with 1.7 ticks left. The inbounder aired the ball toward the goal and the ball bounced off of the top into Markeis Barrett’s hands to hit the game-winning triple for the 63-61 win.
Many in attendance at Farragut High School’s Thanksgiving Tournament argued the ball bounced off of the crossbar above the blackboard, which would be ruled out of bounds. However, after the officials discussed the controversial topic, they gave the shot to Webb.
The loss was tough to swallow for head coach Alden Collins and his East crew as they fought back in the second half attempting to win a fourth-straight game.
“The inbounder did the best he could to get it over 6-10 Braden Ilic,” Collins said. “I’m not going to comment on the ending itself. I give props to Webb for hitting such a tough shot at the end. My guys made the effort to win the game and unfortunately for us, it didn’t happen.”
Simpson was a major push to East’s momentum in the second half with his 17 points in the final two quarters. He finished the game with a team-high 27 points.
“Simpson is a great competitor,” Collins said. “He felt like this was an opportunity to help us out on the offensive end. He was great in transition for us, as well as getting some good looks in the half court. He was very aggressive. I was pleased with what I saw from him today.”
Freshman Kyle Cloninger added 12 for the ‘Canes, with seven of his points in the first quarter. Ilic aided the ‘Canes with his defense to help as well, finishing with five blocks.
“Ilic is someone great to have on the defensive end,” Collins said. “He’s the anchor to our defense in the paint. It’s great to have someone down there in the paint that can contest those easy shots. He wasn’t letting much get by him.”
Cloninger was the jumpstart East needed to grab an edge on Webb in the first quarter for a 20-15 advantage.
The second quarter went Webb’s way, though, as they caught fire from deep.
Jaylon Green hit four 3-pointers and scored 14 of his game-high 28 points in the second quarter to grab the 32-29 lead for the Spartans.
“Webb did all their damage in the second quarter,” Collins said. “They were getting open threes and began to get comfortable from outside. They were playing a comfortable style of basketball for them. We knew in the second half that we had to make them uncomfortable and get them off of the 3-point line.”
Brandon Winton added 14 points for Webb, mostly coming in the first quarter.
The Spartans led the whole third quarter until Simpson finished the quarter with a bucket to tie it at 44-44 heading into the final eight minutes.
“I thought we found a rhythm on the offensive end that really helped us get a jump,” Collins said.
East finally grabbed its first lead since the second quarter with a minute into the fourth quarter.
The ‘Canes only saw their lead grow to as much as four points until Webb managed two big shots to take a 55-54 lead with three minutes to go.
As the time counted down to under two minutes, Green and Simpson traded 3-pointers and East saw itself with a 61-60 advantage with under five seconds to go—looking like a sure win.
“We had a gut check at the end,” Collins said. “We got a huge steal and two big free throws at the end of the game. We had a great defensive possession coming up the floor. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way.”
Unfortunately for the ‘Canes, the ball did not bounce their way this time.