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Tyler two: Pair propels South past East

Bill Lane • Feb 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Sullivan South, playing inspired basketball, had its best game of the season Wednesday night. The Rebels defeated Sullivan East 76-54 in the District 1-AAA tournament quarterfinals.

The winning formula was simple but quite effective. The Tylers did it.

Tyler Ashworth scored inside, Tyler Moore bombed away outside and the two combined for 48 points — almost enough to match East’s total. Moore led with 25 and Ashworth hit 23.

In a previous meeting, East had put 84 points on the scoreboard against South.

“These kids played their hearts out tonight,’’ mild-mannered coach Mark Pendleton said, acknowledging it as South’s best performance of the season. “It all started on the defensive end.’’

Moore, a deadly 3-point shooter, sank five goals outside the perimeter.

“My comfort zone is 21 or 22 feet,’’ he said. “We knew if we could shut East down defensively, we’d get the shots we wanted.’’

The Rebels (16-14) have bonded as a team.

“We’re 90 percent better than we were at the start of the season,’’ Ashworth said. “Hustle has been our main thing. We’ve pushed harder this year, focusing on defense and rebounding.’’

The 6-foot-5 Ashworth, whose older brother Levi played for South and grew to be 6-11, made the play of the game when he claimed a loose ball while lying on his back and passed it upward to a teammate for a layup.

“It was one of those game-changing plays,’’ Pendleton said.

East coach John Dyer said: “The tournament is cruel. Abruptly, the season is over. South played a great game — that’s the bottom line. We didn’t shoot well. We got down early and never played like we were capable of playing.’’

Jordan Cross had 15 points for the Patriots (16-12).

South qualified for the Region 1 tournament along with Big 9 Conference champion and No. 2 seed Science Hill, a 70-49 winner over Volunteer.

Second-seeded Dobyns-Bennett will take on Daniel Boone at 6 o’clock tonight, followed by the Tennessee High vs. Sullivan Central matchup at 7:30.

The fifth-ranked Hilltoppers (25-4) had to break upset-minded Volunteer’s semi-stall to find their usual groove.

“I anticipated that’s how Volunteer would play,’’ Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “Their offense was deliberate but our players didn’t get frustrated. They held their composure.’’

Science Hill unleashed a streaming fast break in the second half and pulled away.

“When (the Falcons) held the ball, we stayed together and played well on defense,’’ Hilltoppers star Josh Odem said. “After we got some separation, they played our game in the second half. As the pace became faster, the game got more interesting.’’

The Hilltoppers looked like the old Boston Celtics on a couple of fast breaks.

“That’s the trademark of this team — unselfishness,’’ Cutlip said. “They’re fun to watch when they get out in the open.’’

The 6-5 Odem again was the leader. He scored 18 points, including two dunks, and added five assists and five rebounds. Teammate Larry Smith grabbed 12 rebounds.

Volunteer’s Aaron Bennett closed his brilliant career with 16 points. Teammate Jordan Seals, who was all over the floor, got 12.

“We wanted to shorten the game and limit Science Hill’s shots,’’ Falcons coach Todd Whittemore said. “But we missed layups and free throws. In the third quarter, Science Hill jumped all over us and took control of the game.

“The older I get, I value good kids more than I do wins. We’re losing five seniors who set an example. Our team didn’t have the most talent but nobody could judge their hearts.’’

South and Science Hill will tangle in Saturday’s semifinals.

“It’s tournament time and anything can happen,’’ Pendleton said. “We’ll have to rebound, limit turnovers and play defense.’’

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