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H.Y. Lady Eagles and S.M.M.S. Blue Devils win 2019 varsity championships

The varsity middle school basketball teams met at Cumberland Gap High School, December 20, to participate in the championship and consolation games. Championship dreams were on the line but first two consolation games needed to be played. The opening game was a girl’s game featuring Midway and Powell Valley. The Lady Indians opened up with a 5-0 run and finished the opening period leading 5-0. Midway was having passing woes early and that kept them playing on the wrong end of the court. Powell Valley scored 12 unanswered before Midway got its first points on the board. At the half Powell Valley led 19-3.

During the third period the Lady Indians kept pulling away to Lea 28-5 after three. It was a Powell Valley night and the Lady Indians took third place by the final score of 34-9. Leading Powell Valley was Jennabeth Wilburn with nine, Addi Nelson had seven, Zoey Nelson and Chrissa Gibson had six, Hailey Smallwood had four and Piper Edwards had two. Midway was led by Tiara Warwick with four, Izabella Cosby had three and Miriam Peoples had two.

Game two featured the same two schools this time it was the boy’s teams. This was a very competitive game from the tip but the Red Devils inched away by the end of the first, 7-3. During the second period Midway rolled on out to a 14-7 lead. The third period was one where the Indians started to scare the Red Devils. The score going into the final period was 15-12 with the Midway holding the slight lead. The Indians grabbed the lead just after the final period started and just took the game away from Midway. The final score was 28-19. Leading Powell Valley in scoring was Kolton Goins with 12, Jonah Ellison had eight, Kaleb Powers had five and Trent Jenkins had three. Midway was led by Cole Holt with 10, Jake Smith had seven and Korbin Hatfield finished with two.

The first championship game featured the H.Y. Lady Eagles facing off against the Soldier’s Memorial Middle School Lady Blue Devils. The Lady Eagles were the one seed and were expected to win. SMMS came in the three seed and were playing for an upset. SMMS led early but HY battled and led by two with a minute left in the first. Going into the second the Lady Eagles and Lady Red Devils were tied at six. During the opening of the second it was SMMS that took the lead but HY stayed on their heels. SMMS led by two at the half, 17-15.

SMMS got the big baskets when needed to stay ahead of HY and finished the third with a five point lead at 28-23. The Lady Blue Devils defense was key. The Lady Eagles never got into their style of play and when they did a controversial call with 3:11 remaining had the HY fans in an uproar. The Lady Eagles had one last run left and at 2:11 had the SMMS lead down to at 32-29. HY had the lead, 35-32, with 24.2 seconds left and had the ball. SMMS turned them over but missed the shot. HY had a chance to seal the game and missed giving away the upset. Leading HY in scoring was Ashlynn Roberts with 12, Hayden Beeler had 10, Kaylee Irvin had six, Gracie Nash had three, Jaylee Hayes and Taylor Kohlmeyer finished with two. SMMS was led by Allie Jones with 14, Genesis Bailey had 10, Ily Bussell had six and Carley Hall had four.

Livesay coach Bethany Evans said this following her championships in both JV and varsity, “It’s such a great feeling for sure. It definitely took some time for me to transition to a brand new group of girls; to learn their strengths and weaknesses and to adapt my system accordingly. But these young ladies worked very hard to learn completely new offensive and defensive sets. They trusted me and what I was teaching them, that makes all the difference in the world. The support from the school administration and parents has been overwhelming. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be in this position.”

The final game was the same two schools in a boy’s contest. HY was the one seed and SMMS was a three seed. The game began with intensity and SMMS was leading when the foul calls against them began. Mid way through the period SMMS already had six fouls. The game was heated throughout the opening period and the Blue Devils went into the second leading 8-2 but had six fouls to play defense around. Only seconds in the period SMMS committed their seventh foul and put HY in the one and one. By the 2:16 mark SMMS had their tenth foul but they still had a tied ball game at 10.

The Eagles led by three at the half, 15-12. The free throws during the opening half of play were 17-0 in favor of the Eagles and that had the SMMS faithful upset but the Blue Devils played through.

HY remained out front during the third despite a good run from SMMS. With 42.7 seconds left in the period it was a one point HY lead at 24-23. The Eagles led going into the final period 26-25. With 4:41 left the Eagles were back in the one and one but the game was tied at 27 and HY missed a key free throw. SMMS led by one at 3:10 but got their tenth foul giving the Eagles the two shot bonus but it didn’t hurt the Blue Devils and the score was only tied again with 2:33 left. HY again tied the game and then SMMS got a basket in the paint to lead 33-31 with just over a minute remaining. HY went to the stripe for two and missed the first one making it 33-32. SMMS went down and turned the ball over and HY had 26.4 seconds to work with after a time out. SMMS finally got into the bonus with seven seconds left and hit both. HY hit a buzzer beater to tie at 35 and send into overtime.

SMMS hit two clutch free throws on a one and one to take the lead 37-35. The Blue Devils added a basket down low and then hit more clutch free throws to lead by six. HY missed two shots but made up for it at the free throw line making the score 42-37 with only 40.3 left in the first overtime. HY had to foul and the Blue Devils were great at the free throw line and sealed the championship by the final score of 45-37.

Leading SMMS in scoring was Ethan Cupp with 17, Vince Bolden had 10, Isaiah Gerrells and Brady Hamlin had eight each and Josh Bolton recorded two points.

The stat of the night was that SMMS played defense so hard they were assessed 39 fouls and only went to the line 19 times but their makes in the final period and overtime was the difference maker. This game lived up to expectations and was one of the better basketball games a fan would wish for.

When asked about how his team was able to win Coach Todd Shackleford said this, “I was really proud of how we fought with all the foul trouble we got ourselves in. You usually don’t win the game when the other team shoots 40 free throws but we did. My guys showed so much composure at the end of not turning the ball over and making our free throws. We didn’t necessary play our best but H.Y. had a lot to do with that.”

Neither team gave up when they were down and out and that’s a reflection of two good coaches.