KINGSPORT - A fast start turned out to be all Sullivan South needed to avenge an early-season loss to its crosstown rival on Wednesday.
Aaron Willey banked in a long 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter to give the Rebels a 20-5 lead and South held on to claim a 60-57 non-conference road win over a cold-shooting Sullivan North squad.
The Rebels got off to a fast start thanks to Willey, who finished up with 27 points and eight rebounds.
Willey knocked down a pair of 3s in the first quarter and slashed to the basket for a variety of high-flying layups to help South build the early 15-point advantage.
South coach Mark Pendleton said the fast start really boosted the spirits of a team that has spent as much time battling injury as it has battling opponents this season.
"I thought that was the key," he said. "We haven't done that a lot this year."
Despite shooting just 34 percent from the floor, the Raiders (11-15) mounted a comeback that fell just short in the closing moments.
North outscored South (8-16) by 12 points during the middle two quarters, but inconsistent shooting prevented the Raiders from overtaking the Rebels.
"I don't question our effort because we played hard tonight," North coach Mitch Cox said. "But somebody's got to step up and hit some shots to get our confidence up."
The Raiders managed to best the Rebels on the boards, but they couldn't overcome such a slow start.
"When a shot went up, we got after it," Cox said. "We played our butts off, but we just had some defensive breakdowns."
David Joyner hit a pair of 3s in the final minute, but South made enough foul shots down the stretch to earn the win.
Dustin Doran led North with 21 points and nine rebounds while Joyner scored 17 points and Jonah Arnold added 10.
Having Reid Powell back on the court after playing sporadically this season due to a back injury was also a plus for South.
Although his mobility hampered his ability to score, Powell opened up space for Willey and helped the Rebels on the boards.
"Having Reid in the game gives us a big advantage because of his size," Pendleton said.
Powell grabbed seven rebounds for South while Henry Ringley scored 18 points.
In girls' action, the Lady Rebels found themselves tied with the Lady Raiders at halftime, so South coach Josh Tate decided a talk was in order.
"We had a little heart-to-heart," Tate said. "Nothing loud, nothing extensive - we just told them what they needed to do."
Whatever he said did the trick. South picked up the defensive intensity and outscored North (3-22) 23-9 in the third quarter on its way to a 63-28 victory.
The 23-point third quarter was two points better than the Lady Rebels' scoring output in the entire first half.
South also keyed on putting the clamps on Keisha Day.
Day led the Lady Raiders' charge in the first half, scoring 13 points and grabbing five boards before halftime.
"We talked about that at halftime," Tate said. "We made a couple of defensive adjustments and they worked."
Day finished with 15 points and two rebounds after a quiet second half.
Natalie Pickwell led South (13-10) with 28 points while Samantha Williams scored 13 points and pulled down eight boards.
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