KNOXVILLE -- A senior leader is a necessary piece of the puzzle for any successful basketball team. Luckily for Morristown East, they have two of them.

Seniors Micah Simpson and Braden Ilic have already proved a point early on in their senior season, taking down Fulton and Alcoa, scoring 100 points in that game. And on Friday night, they added to that resume.

Taking on undefeated Farragut in the semifinals of the Farragut Thanksgiving tournament, Morristown East needed three overtimes but, thanks to the production of Simpson and Ilic, got past the host Admirals, 86-85.

The ‘Canes trailed at the end of regulation and at the end of both overtimes. However, Simpson was there each time to answer and extend the game.

East will play Knox Webb on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. for the championship.

“We put ourselves in a tough situation at the end of the fourth and in both overtimes and had a lot of tired legs, but we have kids that want to win,” Morristown East coach Alden Collins said. “We had kids that stepped up and made enough plays and finally took control in the third overtime. I’m just happy to come out with a win.”

Simpson was the leading scorer in the game, finishing with 32 points. Simpson had 14 points in the three overtime periods.

With 10 seconds left in regulation, Simpson made a contested jumper to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the first overtime, Simpson once again made a jumper, this one with 20 seconds left, to tie the game at 63 and send it to a second overtime.

When the ‘Canes trailed by two with eight seconds to go in the second overtime, they knew exactly who to go to as Simpson drove the length of the court and laid one off the glass with one second to go. Simpson had four points in the third overtime to help seal the win.

On the other hand, Ilic finished the game with 25 points and had 14 points as well in the three overtime periods. Ilic was automatic during the overtimes, hitting timely shot after timely shot. Ilic hit the two free throws in the third overtime to give East a four-point lead that proved to be the difference.

Between the two of them, Simpson and Ilic scored 28 of East’s 32 points in the three overtimes.

“When it comes down to the end of it and we need guys to step up and make plays, the both of them come through,” Collins said. “They were very poised and composed on the offensive ends to get good looks and ones we were able to convert.”

The win over the previously undefeated Admirals just adds to the impressive victories already during the season.

For a team wanting to make a statement this year, the ‘Canes are off to a good start.

“It’s a test in different ways on the defensive end every night going up against teams that are well coached and can score in a variety of ways,” Collins said. “We’re just trying to win in a variety of ways which is good because that is what we’re going to have to do in the postseason.”

It was a back-and forth affair to start as Farragut actually built a 12-7 lead and led 15-11 after one.

In the second, the Admirals built the lead to nine with four minutes to go in the half but went cold as East ended the half on a 12-1 run. Caleb Hall got the run started with a 3-pointer. Hall had 11 points in the game and was pivotal throughout.

Then, it was Simpson scoring and Cooper Wright hitting a 3-pointer. Farragut would make a free throw but Kyle Cloninger scored four straight to end the half and give East a 27-25 lead.

In the third, East came storming out of the gate with five quick points to build the lead to seven. The lead would then grow to 10 midway through the third. However, much like what East did to Farragut in the second quarter, the Admirals fired back and had it down to three before Tyson Frost hit a huge 3-pointer with one second left to make it 45-39 after three.

Farragut built off their momentum at the start of the fourth as they tied the game with 4:22 to go. The two teams would battle from there with Simpson hitting a shot with 10 seconds left to send it to overtime.

In the first overtime, it was all Ilic to start with five quick points. However, Farragut poured in a 3-pointer with under a minute to go to make it 63-61. But, it was Simpson again hitting a bucket over two defenders to send it to overtime number two.

The second overtime was similar to the first with Simpson and Ilic battling, and Farragut hitting three after three. Farragut hit two free throws to go up 73-71 with eight seconds left, but Simpson drove the length of the court and tied the game.

Finally, East broke free in the third overtime and got up 82-77. The ‘Canes would go on to win by a point but it wasn’t without drama as Farragut got an and-one to make it 82-80, stole the inbounds pass but missed a layup. From there, Cloninger and Ilic hit free throws to seal it.

East will have yet another challenge on Saturday night taking on Knox Webb. Webb took down Fulton by two points to advance to the finals.

For East, they will look to do something that the seniors have yet to do. Win a trophy.

“It’s a chance to play for a championship, something this group has not done,” Collins said. “Hopefully, that is motivation that they’ll take in and go home with a championship.”

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