BRISTOL, Tenn. — Points were hard to come by when Tennessee High and Sullivan South squared off inside Viking Hall on Tuesday night.
But the Vikings somehow managed to score a few easy baskets as the game wore on, and that allowed them to turn the tables on the Rebels after suffering a frustrating Big 8 Conference loss in Kingsport earlier this season.
Chase Branscomb scored eight of his team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter and Tennessee High pulled away for a 51-42 decision over South on Senior Night.
Virtually all of Branscomb’s baskets came either on putbacks following offensive rebounds or fast-break layups. Tennessee High coach Roby Witcher said those easy looks were nonexistent during his team’s 38-35 loss to the Rebels on Jan. 4.
“That’s the key in a game where they’re playing a 2-3 zone and you have to play against it on every possession,” Witcher said. “Easy stuff is the key right now in our league. If you don’t get easy stuff, right now teams in our league are so good defensively that they’ll lock you down.
“That’s what happened to us down there. They just locked us down and we couldn’t score in the fourth quarter.”
On Tuesday, however, it was South that struggled to get anything going in the second half. The Rebels led 20-17 at halftime on the strength of Michael Harr’s 12 points. But once the third quarter started, the Vikings took Harr out of the game.
“I thought they did a good job in the second half of coming out and showing us some different zone looks, not a straight 2-3, not a straight man, maybe keying on a couple guys,” South coach Mark Pendleton said. “We didn’t get many second-chance opportunities.”
Using a variety of looks on the defensive end, Tennessee High disrupted the Rebels’ rhythm. Meanwhile, Hunter Jones knocked down three crucial 3-pointers in the third quarter to open things up for Branscomb and Adam Mitchell, who combined for 14 of Tennessee High’s 16 fourth-quarter points.
By the time Harr scored again, the game was out of reach. He knocked down a 3-pointer in the waning seconds to finish with 15 points.
Jones scored 12 for the Vikings (16-10, 5-6) and Mitchell had 10.
Ryan Headrick came through with nine points for South (11-12, 6-5).
The girls’ contest shook out in much the same manner. The Lady Rebels had a lead in the second quarter and were hanging within a point for much of the third before the Lady Vikings unleashed a 15-0 run and cruised to a 60-45 victory.
It was a frustrating loss for South, which battled hard 24 hours after dropping a physical Big 8 battle to Daniel Boone.
The Lady Rebels appeared to run out of steam in the second half Tuesday, leading to the Vikings’ decisive run, which started near the end of the third quarter and spanned much of the fourth.
Tennessee High coach Barry Wade said his team tried to push the tempo in order to fatigue the Lady Rebels.
“When we played them at their place, we ended up winning pretty big,” Wade said. “We remembered they ran out of gas there a little bit, too. So we felt like if we could keep the pace up, we could get it in our favor.”
Ashley Byrd had a huge night for Tennessee High (19-4, 9-2), finishing with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Ashlee Mitchell added 13 points for the Lady Vikings.
Kayla Tipton scored 13 for the Lady Rebels (14-9, 5-6) and Morgan Seymour added nine points.
South coach Josh Tate said his team simply was unable to put together a run before Tennessee High got things rolling.
“We couldn’t get over the hump,” Tate said. “Of course, they couldn’t either until they hit a couple 3s and got a couple offensive rebounds. Those rebounds were big. But I’m proud of our girls. I thought they fought hard.”