|Published: 1:26 PM, 02/25/2014
||Last updated: 1:27 PM, 02/25/2014
BRISTOL—Seeing your name in the Region 1-AAA semi-finals is a beautiful thing, even if the path to get there was less than pleasing to the eye.
Tennessee High survived a brutal fourth quarter at Viking Hall Saturday night with defense and rebounding down the stretch to hold off Cocke County, 54-43, in a regional quarterfinal contest.
The Vikings were in control heading into the final frame with a 44-32 advantage, but in the first 6:30 of the fourth quarter, Tennessee High failed to convert a field goal, made just 1-of-5 free throws and committed eight turnovers as the Fighting Cocks closed to within four at 45-41.
But down the stretch, the Vikings knocked down 9-of-12 foul shots, and were tenacious on the glass
and on defense.
“I don’t care how a ‘W’ ends up,” said Tennessee High head coach Roby Witcher. “Sometimes I believe as the season goes on, I don’t think high school teams are good enough to just close out, close out, close out and always win pretty.”
Tennessee High’s 6-7˝ senior center Chase Branscomb got the Vikings going early by stepping outside and draining a three and then going inside for a conventional three-point play as Tennessee High sprinted to an early 12-1 advantage.
But Cocke County whittled the margin down to three, 18-15, at the end of one and were within a single point midway through the second. A 12-2 first-half closing run gave the Vikings an 11-point halftime margin they quickly expanded to a game-high 17 points early in the third quarter.
Then came the meltdown to start the fourth.
“I think you’ve got to be able to win ugly,” added Witcher. “I think that’s a mark of a seasoned and pretty good team when you can win ugly, when you don’t panic when things don’t go exactly right.”
Branscomb led the Vikings with 17 points while ETSU football signee Adam Mitchell added 12 points. Senior point guard Caleb Easterling chipped in with 11 points.
Cocke County got a game-high 18 points from Dylan Dockery, another ETSU football signee. Fighting Cocke sharpshooter Hunter Suggs managed just ten points, including two in the second half, thanks to the defensive pressure applied by Viking guard Zak Kitzmiller.
With the win, Tennessee High [25-7] moves to the regional semi-finals for the first time in five years. Their last foray to this point in the season also came at the expense of Cocke County back in 2009.
The Fighting Cocks were seeking their first regional semi-final appearance since 2008. Cocke County ends its season at 18-13.
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