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Herring's return sparks Raiders to Watauga win

Bill Lane • Dec 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Without 6-foot-3 senior post player Eric Herring, Sullivan North’s basketball team was like the sound of one hand clapping.

But there again was joy in the Golden Raiders’ gym Friday night. Herring came back after spending four games on the sidelines with an avulsion fracture in his right ankle.

Herring fired in 22 points and collected 10 rebounds in a 68-55 victory over Happy Valley. It was the Raiders’ second win of the season.

When Herring went out with the injury halfway through a game against University High, he had 21 points.

“It was tough having to watch the team play without me in those four games,’’ Herring said. “I was a little timid at the start tonight. Once you’ve had an injury like that, you’re afraid to take the next step.

“After a while, I got used to it and just played.’’

Herring hit all six of his field goal attempts and had an 8-for-10 run at the foul line. His shots consisted of short jumpers off spin moves around the baseline and lay-ins.

“You can see the confidence level of our team go up when Eric walks onto the floor,’’ North coach Mitch Cox said. “He brings energy to everybody.’’

William White certainly played with a burst of energy hardly anybody expected. The little guard played in all four quarters of both the junior varsity and varsity games.

He offered North (2-5, 1-2 Watauga Conference) a strong second punch by scoring 17 points, including a 10-of-13 performance in free throw shooting.

The only freshman of significance to play for the North varsity in recent memory, White gave the Raiders an immediate lift when he came off the bench. His five points in the final minute of the first half enabled North to achieve a 28-28 tie after trailing 7-0 early on.

“William needs all the playing time he can get,’’ Cox said. “Being on the jayvee team will be good for him. He stepped in tonight and did well.’’

Until their shots began to hit the mark, the Raiders stayed in contention with sheer hustle.

Happy Valley (1-2, 1-2) fell behind 61-48 but managed to fight its way back with a physical half- court trap defense. The Warriors put extreme pressure on the ball, frequently sandwiching the dribbler.

The ball-handling and passing of White, Hunter Hart and Mark Salyers eventually neutralized the pressure.

“We had 24 turnovers against Johnson County and went back to the basics,’’ Cox said. “We’ve spent a lot of time on passing, faking and dribbling.’’

Happy Valley’s ageless coaching wonder, Charlie Bayless, did not attend because of a virus. Mark Jones served as the Warriors’ acting coach.

North’s next scheduled game, against Rye Cove, has been postponed until January. The Raiders will be idle for 10 days.

“We can use the time off,’’ Cox noted. “It’ll be good for Eric. We plan to take the team to watch ETSU play and see a movie.’’

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