KINGSPORT — Daniel Boone’s basketball team hit a perimeter shooting drought that Sullivan South’s zone defense successfully exploited in Monday night’s Big 8 Conference rematch.
In the end, all the Trailblazers needed was a little Gaitor Aid.
Boone’s Ryan Gaitor scored 26 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter as he took command of the endgame to ensure a 52-49 win over the Rebels.
“Gaitor’s a great player. My hat’s off to him,” said South guard Michael Harr, whose last-second 3-pointer attempt rattled out of the hoop and was gathered in by Boone’s Aaron Shelton to seal the victory.
Given the intensity of the rivalry, Harr’s parting nod was all the more gallant. The crowd was already thick for South’s rescheduled Homecoming ceremonies. The Trailblazers (17-7, 7-4) packed the gym the rest of the way with their fervent fans.
Even the most hardened adversary would have difficulty denying Gaitor’s game-saving heroics at crunch time.
Boone was trailing 47-42 after a three-point play by South’s Ryan Headrick. The Rebels (11-12, 6-4) got an additional ego-booster with Christian Comsa’s shot block that robbed the ’Blazers of another precious possession.
When Adam Edwards threaded a pass inside to Gaitor for an easy bucket with 3:28 left, it was his cue to get moving. Gaitor scored eight of Boone’s final 10 points. He collected a steal and blasted off for the transition layup. He broke the Rebels down off the dribble and took it to the hole. He added a pair of free throws with 15.3 seconds showing to negate the two by Evan Headrick — South’s only points of the quarter after Ryan Headrick’s and-one.
The finish was a far cry from the second quarter, which saw the Rebels’ 2-3 zone hold Boone to two points that entire frame. Boone couldn’t buy a trey, freeing the defense to collapse on Gaitor with impunity.
“That zone was a killer,” Gaitor said. “I thought they played it pretty good.”
Boone coach Ryan Arnold couldn’t find fault with his shooters.
“Dillon Reppart and Jordan Stout went 2-for-18 behind the arc and every one was a good look. I’d accept those shots every night. They just didn’t fall,” said Arnold, who got 13 points from Jacob Littleton.
Harr and Ryan Headrick had 13 points apiece for the Rebels.
“You’ve got to close the door,” said South coach Mark Pendleton.
“You could tell both teams really wanted this one.”
In the girls’ game, Jenny Snyder scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and the Lady Trailblazers prevailed 73-60.
Allison Littleton scored 13 points and had seven assists for Boone (13-10, 5-6) and Autumn Bradshaw scored 11.
Kayla Tipton scored 16 points to pace the Lady Rebels (14-8, 5-5). Taylor Crawford and Courtney McKenzie added 12 apiece.
In addition to Tipton sitting out seven minutes of the second quarter in foul trouble, South lost point guard Victoria Williams for the rest of the game after she knocked out a front tooth.
“(The foul trouble) was brutal, but our point guard going down was also brutal,” said South coach Josh Tate. “She was hurt. But she’s tough. I know she’ll bounce back.”