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Jefferson County runs table for District 2-AAA boys title

Published: 10:02 AM, 02/19/2014 Last updated: 10:03 AM, 02/19/2014

Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

DANDRIDGE—Running the table in District 2-AAA is a tough feat.

That’s why Tuesday night’s tournament championship tilt was no surprise to Jefferson County coach Chris Poore.

After battling through 15 wins in the league, the Patriots had to battle a tough Sevier County team and rely on their defense to earn the 51-36 win over the Smoky Bears.

“The whole season has been tough, to do what these guys did is pretty special,” Poore said in the midst of the celebration on the Patriots’ home floor. “There’s a reason (an unbeaten season) doesn’t get done very often.”

Jefferson County had to shake off a pesky Morristown West team in Saturday’s semifinal round and then battle through a tough first half in Tuesday night’s championship game, in which offense came at a premium for both schools.

They held just an 8-2 lead after a quarter and was able to expand that to 19-10 at halftime.

For Poore, Tuesday’s game was a continuation of what team’s have thrown at the state-ranked Patriots the last few weeks of the season - and a preview of things to come as the Region 1-AAA tournament approaches.

“Towards the end (of the season) - we got everybody’s shot,” Poore said. “Everybody wanted to take us down.

“For these guys to understand that is pretty special,” Poore said. “This is a tough group of guys that battle and I can’t speak highly enough of them.”

Jefferson County (27-4) battled most of the way, as they jumped out to a double digit lead in the third quarter and held off a pesky Sevier County (20-9) team, led by All-District player Jacob Whaley. Whaley was the lone Smoky Bear to reach double figures with a 20-point effort.

Even with Sevier County remaining in striking distance, the Patriots leaned on their defense to pull them through, just like in the first meeting between the two teams this year. Despite their offensive firepower, the Patriots won that contest by a 37-32 score, relying on their defense.

That happened again Tuesday night, as they were able to close out the season by giving up an average of 35 points to Sevier County in their three meetings.

“Our defense held them down where we could compete with them,” Poore said. “To give up just 36 points in the championship game is tough, especially that team.

“That’s what we are proudest of,” Poore said.

Behind the play of Whaley and Austin Pope, Sevier County made a run to cut the Patriots’ lead to just eight points with just over 6:45 to play in the game but Jefferson County withstood the run and pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Tournament MVP John Bryant and his partner in the paint, Brice Cusick, were instrumental in the Patriots ability to hold off Sevier County. Bryant led his team in scoring with 16 points, including two straight baskets after Sevier County had cut the lead to eight.

Cusick was equally as controlling on the inside, adding another 15 for his squad.

Poore knew it was important for his squad to be able to pull away from the Smoky Bears, who toppled his squad behind a superhuman performance by Devin Schmidt in last year’s championship battle.

“They’ve won championships and they know how to compete and win,” Poore said. “Every game they’re tough, especially in the championship game.”

Now the Patriots turn their attention to a situation in which they’ve been unfamiliar. They host Science Hill in a must-win situation in Saturday night’s Region 1-AAA Tournament quarterfinal round.
If the Patriots take care of business and continue winning, they will not have to leave their home floor before advancing to the TSSAA State Tournament next month.

“It’s special to close out the season the way they did,” Poore said. “It’s a tough season, but the tournament is even tougher.”

Sevier County hosts David Crockett in Saturday night’s Region 1-AAA quarterfinal round.

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