KINGSPORT — Isaac Snapp couldn’t find a shot. The defense struggled to slow Sullivan South, and the offense simply failed to keep up.
Sullivan East erased it all with a superb second half, rallying past host South 70-65 on Friday night on basketball homecoming.
“I knew it was going to be tough after an emotional win at Tennessee High,” Patriots coach John Dyer said. “We never gave up. We just hung in there.”
The fancy dresses and tiaras on display at halftime were no match for the hardwood drama that unfolded after the break.
When the Patriots (17-6, 9-2) took a 60-59 lead on Travis Mullins’ layup with 2:52 to play — their first since late in the first period — it marked a furious, and unlikely, comeback.
East trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half, nine at intermission.
The Rebels (8-12, 2-9), playing about as well as they had all season, seemingly answered ever thing thrown at them. In the third period, when the Patriots used a 8-3 run to trim the deficit to four, South responded with seven unanswered to push its advantage to 11.
“I thought South jumped out and played great,” Dyer said. “They beat us at our own game.”
The fourth quarter was a different story altogether.
Patriots guard Dillon Faver opened the period with a steal and layup. Snapp followed with a 3-pointer — his first and only field goal of the game — cutting the lead to 57-53 with six minutes left.
South temporarily weathered the storm, but couldn’t protect the basketball. Two turnovers later, Mullins converted and East had the lead.
“Our motto is finish,” Rebels coach Mark Pendleton said. “That’s what we’re going to eat, drink, sleep the rest of the year.
“Our effort is not a question. Execution at the end of games is what we have to work on.”
The hosts drew level once more, with 2:10 remaining, but Kyle Barnes responded with a tough deuce in traffic. South guard Weston Carr, already with five 3s on the night, tried to add a sixth but could not. Fouling ensued, with East sealed the win at the free throw line.
“We gave up 45 points in the first half, 20 in the second half — that’s the key,” Dyer said. “Any time you can get a road win in this conference, it feels good.”
Barnes kept the Patriots afloat throughout, ending the night with a game-high 20 points. Jordan Cross and Koree Deeb posted 13 and 12, respectively. Snapp, East’s leading scorer, had nine.
Tyler Ashworth scored 15 of his 17 points in the opening half for South. Carr, who now has hit 11 treys in two games, collected 15 points.
“We’ve just got to stay positive,” Pendleton said. “We’re not happy about the loss, but we see the bigger picture. If we keep improving, good things are going to happen for us.”
Earlier, the South girls gave coach Josh Tate just the response he was seeking.
The Lady Rebels (14-4, 8-3) rebounded from a 42-41 loss to Daniel Boone on Tuesday with a decisive 70-44 triumph over the Lady Patriots.
All 10 South players reached the scoring column. Natalie Pickwell and Samantha Williams each finished with a game-high 16 points. Freshman Makensey Campbell recorded 15.
“We hit our shots,” Tate said. “We knew our offense would get us open looks and we knew if we hit them, it would be a good night.”
“(Saturday) night, I hope we come out with the same kind of response against Gate City,” Tate added. “Then we can get our feet under us and go play Science Hill at their place.”