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Cherokee, South to meet in Kelly Services final

Jeff Birchfield • Dec 29, 2018 at 2:10 AM

KINGSPORT — Sullivan South and Cherokee rolled to semifinal wins Friday night in the Kelly Services Christmas Tournament boys basketball tournament at Sullivan North.

The Rebels stymied Volunteer with a defensive effort that saw them give up just 25 points through three quarters in a 56-43 victory. The Chiefs got a 32-point effort from Ryan Bledsoe in a 63-53 win over West Greene.

South and Cherokee square off Saturday at 8 p.m. in the championship game. The teams have split in their two previous meetings this season.

In the semifinals, South’s strategy was to take the game out of the hands of Falcons guard Chance Johnson. The Rebels did just that, limiting the senior to six points.

“I thought Gavin Parker set the tone for us tonight. He was out there guarding him and made it tough on him all night,” South coach Michael McMeans said. “Caleb Vaughn came in, and those guys are our two best defenders on the perimeter. Those guys took him out of what he wanted to do.”

Chase Bowery led offensively with 15 points and Ben Diamond scored 12, including a stretch of eight straight in the fourth quarter. Parker had eight points and Vaughn came through with seven.

“They had no answer for Chase. He’s bound and determined to have a great senior season,” McMeans said. “We know every night he’s going to be right at a double-double and that’s a luxury for me.

“He did what he needed to do offensively and scored right around the basket,” the coach added.

With South’s focus on limiting Johnson’s production, Eli Churchwell led the Falcons with nine points. Brody Hunley, who hit a game-winning shot against North the night before, had seven.

“They got after us and hounded Chance relentlessly,” Volunteer coach Mike Poe said. “We had a lot of people who shied away from the ball. My hat’s off to them, because they played hard, they played with passion, the way the game ought to be played. We didn’t compete like they did and their post guys buried us under the rim.”

Volunteer faces West Greene in the third-place game at 6:30 p.m.

Cherokee 63, West Greene 53

Bledsoe, the defending Big 7 Conference player of the year, scored 32 points to lead the Chiefs over the Buffaloes.

Cherokee pulled out to a 35-27 halftime lead and extended the margin to 14 points heading into the final quarter. Bledsoe made all 10 of his free throws in the fourth quarter, and the Chiefs held on for the win.

“It was a senior mentality,” Bledsoe said. “Coach expects me to go out there and do what a senior is supposed to do, to make free throws and make big buckets for us. I practice on my shooting every day.”

Bledsoe added it was as much about the defensive effort, especially with 6-foot-11 center Wyatt Watson altering the Buffaloes’ inside shots.

“We’re a type of basketball team that has to play as a unit,” Bledsoe said. “No one of us is the star of the show. We have to get after it and play defense, outrebound you to win. Wyatt at 6-11 helps a lot. He might not get all the points, but he affects their shots and is a big presence in there.”

Watson had eight points and Breiydon Gilliam had seven in the Cherokee win.

West Greene did most of its damage from the outside, where Kyler Clowers and Allen Vaughn combined for 11 shots from 3-point range and 46 points overall. Clowers had 26 and Vaughn finished with 20.

Chuckey-Doak 58, Sullivan North 49

A six-minute scoring drought in the fourth quarter proved to be the host school’s undoing against the Black Knights.

Sullivan North hit back-to-back, 3-point goals to cut the lead to 51-46 early in the fourth quarter. After a Chuckey-Doak timeout, the Golden Raiders didn’t score again until a little over a minute to go.

“Somehow, we’ve got to score,” North coach Travis Cain said. “We had two big droughts when we didn’t score and we’ve got to do a better job on our end. We had too many turnovers.

“Defensively, we played pretty good, other than a few times there in the third when 22 (Alex Maupin) was wide open shooting the ball.”

Maupin had 16 points — 12 of them from 3-point range — and Ethan Palazzo was the Knights’ leading scorer with 21 points.

Trey Williams led North with 13 points. Yancy Dolen finished with 12, followed by Isaiah Pruitt with nine and Dale Potter with eight.

Happy Valley 56, Cloudland 39

Bryce Carter had 14 points and nine rebounds and James Harmon added 11 points to lead the Warriors over the Highlanders in the opening game.

Dylan Willis finished with nine points and three steals for Happy Valley.

Elijah Blair was the leading scorer for Cloudland with 10 points. Robert Leeper and Dillon Johnson each finished with eight.

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