KINGSPORT — When the Sullivans — North and South — clash on the basketball hardwood, it’s a tangled web of emotions. Always expect the unexpected.
Mark Pendleton played at North but coaches South. Mitch Cox played at South but coaches North.
Only last week, the Rebels defeated North 77-49 in the New Peoples Bank Holiday Classic. In a rematch Wednesday night, visiting South (9-3) felt fortunate to escape with a 58-53 victory.
North (4-8) trailed by a mere 54-53 margin after Chase Arnold put in a short-range field goal with 2:16 remaining.
Even though Logan Blair’s two free throws with 28 seconds to go gave South a bit of breathing room at 56-53, it wasn’t over. North worked strategically in the final mintue for a game-tying 3-point goal.
Tyler Moore then sprang up from nowhere, blocked a shot, recovered the ball and passed to Blair for a fast-break layup just before the buzzer sounded.
“With that type of score in your first meeting, you tend to think it’s going to be easy,’’ Pendleton said. “But coming in, I really expected this to be a different game. North looked to attack more offensively and got a lot of dribble penetration.
“(The Raiders) guarded us well. We had a hard time getting the ball inside. They tried to take that away from us because it’s where we hurt them the first time. Luckily, some of our shots went in.’’
Moore anticipated a Raider shot attempt from behind the circle. “I knew that was coming,’’ he said. “I had to do something. I wasn’t very hot tonight.’’
Moore gave South a second scoring punch with 10 points, but it was his timely defense that saved the Rebels from embarrassment.
“Tyler didn’t shoot well but he has stepped up his game defensively,’ ‘ Pendleton said. “That’s helped us more than anything else.’’
Offensively, Andrew Pickwell was man of the hour for South. He scored a career-high 22 points — 11 of which came during an opening-quarter shooting spree. Pickwell accounted for four of South’s eight 3-point goals.
His counterpart, North guard Mark Salyers, hit 20 points.
“You can’t say enough about Mark,’’ Cox said. “He’s sat out maybe two minutes all year. He plays his guts out and is averaging 20 points a game. He’s an exceptional young man.’’
Cox pointed to subpar shooting on the foul line and from the arc as being North’s downfall.
“We executed our game plan,’’ he said. “We can’t fault the effort of these guys. They played their hearts out. We were 4-of-23 on treys and if we’d hit our usual percentage, we’d have won by 10. We’re a 77 percent team on free throws but made just 5-of-12.
“A couple of bad decisions toward the end were costly.’’
Six of North’s eight losses have been by five points or less.
The North-South game scheduled later in the season will not be played since the teams met in the holiday tourney.