It was supposed to be a showdown between two of the teams tied for first place in the Inter Mountain Conference. But what fans at Isenberg-Siler Gymnasium saw was simply a blowout as Sevier County rolled to a 68-34 victory over Morristown East.
The two went into the game with identical 5-1 league marks and were both tied with Jefferson County atop the league. But the Smoky Bears made a statement by breezing out to an early lead and never letting up.
It snapped a two-game losing streak for Coach Ken Wright’s Bears who are now 10-5 for the season.
Wes Maples led a balanced Sevier County attack with 15 points while Jonathan Zhao-Olmos added 14 and Camden McElhaney 13. Tyler Wilson and Donovan Miller scored eight each.
Micah Simpson had his usual good offensive game for the Hurricanes as he rifled in 19 points. However, no other East player scored more than four points and nobody else made two baskets in the game.
The Hurricanes slipped to 11-9 overall. Both of their conference losses have come at the hands of Sevier County.
Sevier was 24 of 44 from the floor for 54.5 percent including 9 of 19 three-pointers. The ‘Canes were an icy 13 of 43 for 30.2 percent. The Smoky Bears also won the rebounding battle, 27-25, as Maples grabbed seven and McElhaney and Wilson six each. Braden Ilic pulled down 10 stray shots for East.
“That’s the best we’ve played in a while,” said Wright. “We had two close losses when we didn’t shoot the ball well and you know when you don’t shoot well you usually don’t play good defense.”
He added, “But tonight I thought we came out of the gate playing really hard. We got off to a good start and kept it up all the way through. I thought everybody shot it well tonight.”
East coach Alden Collins remarked, “When a team has that many shooters, they’re able to space the floor and that makes it difficult to defend and also makes rebounding difficult. They had four people who shot really well tonight and that’s hard to stop.
“Offensively, we had a lot of turnovers early in the game and that got us in trouble. We also didn’t shoot very well.”
He added, “We have to get back to work and get ready for a good West team in here on Thursday night.”
Miller, starting at the point in place of the injured Marvin Castro, hit a three to open the game for the Bears and McElhaney nailed another long one. Cole Henson got East on the scoreboard, but Olmos knocked down a three and Maples and Wilson had baskets to put the Bears up 13-2.
After Ryan Harris scored for the ‘Canes, Olmos drained another trey and the visitors went on to lead 17-8 at the first break.
Wilson scored inside to start the second stanza and East never got closer than eight the rest of the way. Olmos scored five in the second as the Bears had a 14-10 scoring advantage to lead by 31-18 at intermission.
It got ugly quickly in the third quarter as East went almost five minutes without scoring while the Smoky Bears were pouring in a dozen points and pulling away. Miller scored five and Olmos added another three and it was 43-18 when Simpson hit a jumper for the ‘Canes at the 3:06 mark of the quarter.
McElhaney scored five points and Maples had a conventional three-point play and the Bears led 51-25 after three periods.
Sevier County hit 9 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter and extended its lead to as much as 35 points.