KINGSPORT — Early in the fourth quarter Friday night, Sullivan North found itself without its “Big Three.”
Dustin Doran, Matt Williams and Eric Herring sat on the bench with four fouls apiece. Earlier in the season, such a scenario might have been disastrous for the Golden Raiders.
Instead, North held its lead until the starters could come back in, and went on to notch a pivotal 64-45 Watauga Conference win over West Greene.
Doran and Williams both picked up their fourth infractions in the third quarter. Herring went to the bench after getting his fourth foul with 7:44 left and North leading 44-30.
As it turns out, that set the scene for the Golden Raiders’ supporting cast to take center stage. Zack Walters came off the bench to score eight points, five in that pivotal fourth-quarter stretch.
“We’re not going to be able to win tournament games without another scorer,” said Walters, who hit a 3-pointer and two free throws in the fourth frame.
“We just knew we needed to get through the first part of that fourth quarter with a 10-point lead. Then our starters would finish it off.”
Doran, Herring and Williams did just that, coming back in with about four minutes left and quickly salting away a North win.
Still, Raiders coach Mitch Cox almost decided against re-inserting his star trio, given that the Raiders still had a double-digit advantage and the rest of the team was playing well.
North (12-10, 6-5) sits in fourth place in the Watauga. If the Raiders can maintain their top-four status, they’ll host a first-round game in the District 1-AA tournament. The winner would secure a regional spot.
“To be able to host that game, it’s a big advantage,” Cox said. “In our conference, going away is one of the hardest things to do.”
Herring had 10 of his game- high 19 points in a 22-point first quarter for the Raiders. North held West Greene scoreless for the first 4:30 of the second half, but foul trouble negated most of that positive momentum.
“We couldn’t get any rhythm,” Cox said. “It seemed every 30 seconds there was a whistle.”
West Greene (3-15) came out in a triangle-and-2 defense but North broke it up with four 3-pointers in the first quarter. Walters, who moved to the area from Connecticut in November, hit one of those treys.
“They’ve accepted me so well,” Walters said. “I missed home so much, but here’s been great.”
Matt Williams added 12 points for the Raiders.
Allen Cremins paced the Buffaloes with 14 points.
West Greene doubled up winless North 56-28 in the girls’ game.
The Lady Buffs (8-16, 5-7) got 15 points from Trenda Dyer, 13 from Brittney Franklin and 10 from Colleen Cavanagh.
Stephanie Crook led North (0-22, 0-11) with 10 points.