BLUFF CITY — With district tournament play fast approaching, Sullivan East’s Patriots continue to brandish their bludgeons for a postseason run that could take them where they’ve never been before: Murfreesboro.
John Dyer’s team, ranked seventh among the state’s top Class AA teams, defeated Sullivan South Thursday night 64-51.
When these teams met on Jan. 23, East needed an overtime to win 64-61.
Jordan Cross, a 6-foot-2 junior who has all the gears, blazed in 28 points to tie his season-high total and lead the Patriots (23-4) to their fifth straight victory.
They sewed up the Three Rivers Conference championship earlier this week by beating Unicoi County.
“After winning that type of game on Tuesday, I was prepared for a letdown tonight,’’ Dyer said. “I’m extremely pleased with our effort against South, a good team that’s strong inside.
“South has a great point guard and I’m glad we’ll never have to face Bailee Dick again. That guy is a competitor. Andrew Pickwell also is a good athlete.’’
Cross penetrated for most of his baskets. When South’s defense tightened, he backed off and took long shots.
“He’s a good player,’’ South coach Mark Pendleton said of Cross. “He does a good job driving and also shoots well outside. You have to make him take deep shots and hope that he won’t beat you out there.’’
Dyer agreed that Cross, a college prospect at point guard, has a complete package.
“He’s a very skilled player who will get you a basket or pass to somebody for a layup or an open 3-pointer,’’ the East coach said.
The 6-2 Pickwell, a senior, provided two highlights for the Rebels with awesome slam dunks with 3:28 to go in the third quarter and 1:49 in the fourth. He was dunking champion twice in the old Big 9 Conference. The new Big 8 did not have a contest this year.
Logan Blair, a 6-6 senior center, led South (13-11) with 14 points. He got the Rebels’ first three field goals.
Inconsistency contributed to the Rebels’ demise.
“We played well in spurts,’’ Pendleton said. “We’ve got to put together 32 minutes. But we kept playing hard and made some buckets at the end.’’
Chase DePew offered East a second scoring punch with 13 points. He sank three straight 3-pointers in the third quarter.
“We had a good run in the first half,’’ Dyer said.
“In 27 games this season we’ve played hard 27 times. This was a tough game for us. It was a physical battle. We lost our heads a couple of times.’’
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