Quick start give Morristown East win over Cocke County

Morristown East’s Braden Illic (23) puts up a shot on Friday night against Cocke County Friday night at Isenberg-Siler Gymnasium.

Morristown East scored the first 13 points of the game Friday night at Isenburg-Siler Gym and went on to a 76-64 victory over Cocke County.

The Big Red never got closer than 12 at any point as East racked up its 11th victory against eight losses. The win coupled with Jefferson County’s win over Sevier County moved the Hurricanes into a three-way tie for first place in the Inter Mountain Conference at 5-1.

They share the lead with the Patriots and Smoky Bears.

Cocke County fell to 6-12 for the season and is now 1-5 in conference action.

Micah Simpson poured in 25 points to lead the ‘Canes. Braden Ilic and Shaffer Harville contributed a dozen points each and Ilic pulled off a game-high 11 rebounds.

They got scoring help from Cooper Wright and Cole Henson with eight apiece and Ryan Harris with seven.

The Big Red was led by Keaston Jackson who fired in 27 with 13 of those coming in the third quarter. Isaiah Elliott added a dozen with all of them coming in the second half. Hayden Green and A. J. Mills added eight each.

East grabbed the big lead to start and led by as many as 25 in the first half before the visitors scored 43 in the final two stanzas to cut into the final margin.

“I was proud of the start our guys had tonight,” said Hurricanes’ coach Alden Collins. “I thought we played with a lot of passion at the start of the game.”

He added, “I thought we continued to execute well on offense in the second quarter. We did a great job of playing inside out. Braden was phenomenal in the high post and Shaffer and Cody (Ridley) were great inside.

“With our big men doing their jobs, it opened things up for us on other parts of the floor. Cooper was able to get a couple of open threes from the corners and knocked them down and that was big. Micah continues to score and hit big shots for us.”

Collins was pleased that his team is now tied for the league lead. “We’re where we need to be right now and it’s great to know that we now control our own destiny as far as the conference is concerned. We’ve got two big games next week starting with Sevier County on Tuesday and hopefully we’ve learned from the loss to them earlier.

“Our guys need to stay hungry and continue to improve. We’re exactly halfway through the conference, and we’re excited about where we are right now.”

East shot the ball well, making good on 28-of-53 for 52.8 percent. The ‘Canes were 5-of-16 behind the arc with Simpson hitting three and Wright two.

Cocke County finished at 39.7 percent (23-58) after making only 6-of-26 in the first half. The Fighting Cocks were able to get the ball inside a lot in the final two periods.

With Ilic leading the way the Hurricanes had a 37-31 backboard advantage. Elliott had six and Jackson five for the Big Red.

Harris scored the first basket before Ilic hit two straight. Simpson then buried a triple and came up with a steal and layup before Henson closed the opening run with a layup off a pass from Ilic.

Baylor Baxter got the visitors on the scoreboard by making free a throw with 3:34 left in the quarter, but Simpson added two more baskets and Ilic one as East led 19-5 at the first stop.

The ‘Canes continued to pull away. Henson converted a three-point play after a steal, Simpson hit another three and Ilic hit a bucket to up the lead to 20 at 31-11 with 4:41 left in the half.

Ilic hit a fade-away before Wright scored eight straight East points with his second trey giving the Hurricanes their biggest lead at 41-15. It was 42-21 at halftime.

With Jackson leading the way, the Big Red scored 20 in the third quarter but couldn’t get closer than 14 at 55-41.

However, Ridley and Simpson had the last two baskets of the period and East led 59-41 going to the final eight minutes. Harville netted seven in the quarter for the ‘Canes.

The lead ballooned back to 22 before Cocke County cut into the final margin behind the scoring of Elliott and Jackson.