KINGSPORT — Morristown West closed out 2007 in fine fashion, beating University High 70-67 on Saturday night to win the inaugural Sullivan North Christmas Classic.
“This is a big deal for those kids,” Trojans coach Tony Gordon said. “They’ve never experienced success in these situations.”
To taste such success, Morristown West had to get past Gordon’s old team.
“That’s two teams with a lot of desire. To be associated with both of them, I couldn’t be more proud,” he said.
“It was stressful for me; they’re all my kids.”
In the end, one of Gordon’s Morristown kids came up with the premier performance. Starting guard Sean Jones scored 27 points, including seven in a highly contentious fourth quarter. Jones’ total included five 3-pointers, many of which came in crucial situations with the Junior Bucs right on the heels of the Trojans.
“Sean’s a winner,” Gordon said. “He just has that competitive force and confidence to step up and take those shots.”
West (8-5) took a 31-28 lead into the second half, when the tempo and the intensity both considerably increased. The teams combined for 40 points in the third quarter, and West emerged still in control by a 52-47 margin.
The Trojans started the fourth period with a 6-0 run to take a 58-47 lead, the largest advantage for either team all night. U-High answered with seven straight points to make it a game again.
“We made some poor decisions with the basketball. They’re so good offensively, they’re able to turn those into points real quickly,” Gordon observed.
The Junior Bucs got as close as 61-60 but never could tie or overtake the Trojans down the stretch. Fatigue possibly was a factor; U-High (12-3) used just six players during the entire ballgame.
“We’re down 11, it’d be easy to mail it in with a six-kid rotation,” Junior Bucs coach Justin Penley said. “But to our credit, we battled back.”
Penley cited turnovers in the first half as one of the deciding factors in the outcome.
Josh Padgett, who scored 69 points in U-High’s first two tournament games, led the Junior Bucs with 17 in the championship contest. Will Burton added 16 points, Alex Denton had 14 and Josh Phillips 12.
Jamere Hogue and Matt Craine contributed 13 and 10 points, respectively, for the Trojans.
Sullivan South took third place with a 62-47 win over Mitchell County, N.C.
Weston Carr and Tyler Ashworth set the scoring pace for the Rebels. Carr finished with 13 points, while Ashworth tallied 10.