KINGSPORT — There’s nothing that excites a basketball crowd like a dunk. Andrew Pickwell put two down Friday night in a 61-44 Sullivan South win over Sullivan Central.
“A dunk counts two points but at the same time lights a fire under a team,’’ South coach Mark Pendleton said of Pickwell’s sky-walking antics. “We told Andrew that he’s got to be a force on the offensive glass for us.’’
Less than two minutes into the second half, Pickwell grabbed a rebound above the rim and in the same motion slammed the ball through. This widened South’s lead to 29-19 and the Cougars never recovered from it.
With 1:57 remaining in the game, Pickwell dunked another shot running across the right baseline.
What makes Pickwell so amazing is his jumping ability. The 6-foot-2 senior guard twice won the Big 9 Conference dunking contest — as a sophomore and junior. The newly organized Big 8 Conference did not have dunking competition this year at its jamboree.
Pickwell led the Rebels in scoring with 15. Point guard Bailee Dick added 10.
“Central started a little quicker than we did,’’ Pendleton said. “We held firm, stayed in the game and were lucky enough to have the lead at halftime.
“Andrew had some nice putbacks. Bailee did a good job distributing the ball in the halfcourt. We had a lot of guys come off the bench and contribute, particularly Aaron St. Clair.’’
South (5-1, 3-0) is leading the Big 8.
“We’ve got to keep working every day,’’ Pendleton said. “It never gets any easier. We have to show continued improvement.’’
Central’s strong 1-2 scoring punch — Nathan Vannoy and Taylor Winchell — accounted for 35 of their team’s 44 points. Vannoy, hitting from every conceivable angle, got 20 while Winchell scored 15 for the Cougars (4-5, 1-2).
“Vannoy played well,’’ Central coach Tony Vaughn said. “Winchell did for a while, but he got in foul trouble. Everybody else was spotty.’’
Vaughn was not a happy camper. He lashed out at the officiating.
“South became physical in the second half and pushed us around a bit,’’ he said. “It was like a football game. I saw some things that weren’t right. It wasn’t fair to the kids.’’
Vaughn said he hasn’t changed his mind about the Rebels’ capabilities. “They’ve got eight seniors. I picked them first in the conference at the beginning of the season and they are leading the race. They beat us on the offensive boards and shot better than we did.
“When you shoot just 30 percent from the field, it’s hard to win.’’
There was no girls game. South played at Cloudland and Central was in a Bristol tournament.
South hosts Gate City tonight. Tennessee High will be at Central on Monday.
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