BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan Central coach Tony Vaughn feared that all practice and no play would make the Cougars a dull basketball team heading into next week’s District 1-AAA tournament.
So Central played four games in five days to wrap up the regular season, winning its last three contests thanks to a 69-60 victory over Morristown West on Friday night.
Jason Rock scored 21 points, three other Cougars reached double figures and Vaughn’s squad seems to be heading into the postseason with a full head of steam after the solid senior night performance.
“This was our fourth one this week and we’re really tired,” Vaughn said. “But I’d rather be playing this time of year than practicing — you stay a lot sharper that way.”
The fatigue was evident as Central played with heavy feet in the first quarter and trailed 12-10 after the first eight minutes.
The slow start wasn’t a big surprise since the Cougars played an up-tempo contest against on the road against Volunteer only 24 hours earlier.
“When you’re tired, sometimes you make mistakes you don’t normally make,” Vaughn said. “But the kids hung in there, got some rebounds and hit some big shots.
“It was a lot different from the West Coast game we played last night.”
But the Cougars shook off the slow start and quickly picked up the pace, outscoring West 46-28 in the middle two periods as their transition game swung into motion.
Defensive rebounds led to long lead passes which led to plenty of layups as the Cougars built a 58-40 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Trojans had one more run in them, cutting the 18-point lead in half with 4:50 left in the game, but West wasn’t able to get any closer than that as Central did a good job of hitting its foul shots in the final minute.
Morgan Winchell added 12 points for Central (14-14) while Josh Kaiko had 11 and Tyler Devault added 10.
Dustin Fanney led all scorers with 25 points while Justin Prater added 15 for the Trojans (16-8).
Meanwhile, the Lady Cougars entered the fourth quarter tied with the Lady Trojans, but it was all Morristown West from there.
West outscored Central 19-0 in the final quarter and 22-0 in the final nine minutes to pick up a 63-44 victory.
Freshman Kelly Smith had 24 points to lead West (12-10), which already owns a win over Greeneville heading into the District 2-AAA tournament. Whitney Moody led Central (13-15) with 17 points.
“We know we can be competitive with anybody,” West coach Johnny Galyon said. “We’re a young team, but we’re confident in what we do.”
To make matters worse for the Lady Cougars, Central coach Gary Surcey said starting guard Brittany Fields will miss the remainder of the season with mono.
The Lady Cougars certainly missed her quickness against West.
“There was a little bit of a matchup problem because they have those quick guards,” Surcey said.