KINGSPORT — Sullivan South appeared to be in trouble Saturday night against a team that was opening its basketball season. Caleb Anderson, a 6-foot senior, came to the Rebels’ rescue.
Anderson stepped off the bench to score 12 critical points in a 62-58 victory over Gate City.
For a majority of the first 18 minutes, the Blue Devils took the battle to South (6-1). Anderson then entered the picture and immediately changed the game.
In a span of only five minutes, he hit two free throws, a pair of 3-point goals and a layup. The spark he provided in the third quarter essentially transformed a 33-33 tie into a 50-40 lead.
“I’d already been in the game in the first half, giving Ethan Bates a breather. But I didn’t do much,’’ Anderson said. “Coach (Mark) Pendleton told me it was time to get it in gear. When I hit the 3-pointer — my first of the year — it was a good feeling. I’ve been working hard on my outside shot since I came back from football.’’
Pendleton, who saw it as another team victory, acknowledged that Anderson’s spree was the difference.
“Caleb gave us some huge minutes,’’ he said. “When you go on the court, you’ve got to be ready to play both ends of the floor. He was.’’
South’s leading scorer was Bates with 13 points. Tyler Moore hit 10.
Pendleton figured Gate City would be tough coming in but seemed surprised at how advanced the Blue Devils actually were.
“Gate City got off to a fast start and deserves a lot of credit,’’ he said. “That’s a very good, physical team.’’
The Blue Devils’ Paul Arnold, a 6-foot-2 junior, gave the Rebels fits inside, and he finished with a game-high 18 points.
“Arnold was hard to stop,’’ Anderson said. “We finally got backside help on him.’’
Pendleton said Arnold plays much bigger than his size. “He’s such a great leaper. We gave him a little cushion when he caught the ball outside.’’
Other double-figure scorers for the Devils were Trevor Smith with 12 and Jordan Potts with 11.
“We have so many young players,’’ Gate City coach Scott Vermillion said, “but they’re going to grow up. In the first half, we controlled the tempo and got what we wanted on defense. But we didn’t always execute offensively. We got some good things out of transition.
“I thought South was going to stretch a 10-point lead to 20 but didn’t. We came back to get within two and had a chance to win.’’
Anderson sealed the victory with two free throws in the last 14 seconds.
Both teams showed flashes of greatness. They’ll meet again on Feb. 13 at Gate City.
Makensey Campbell flipped in 11 points to lead South (2-3) to a 49-29 win in the girls game. Ten players took part in the scoring for the Lady Rebels, who hit eight 3-point goals.
Top scorer for Gate City (1-4) was Rachel Horner with 13.
“We played very well defensively,’’ South coach Josh Tate said. “On nights when we play hard, we do pretty well. We pressed a little for the first time, and didn’t miss a lot of 3-point attempts.’’
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