GRAY — In the face of adversity, Sevier County managed to circle the wagons on Tuesday night.
Two days after leading scorer Devin Schmidt was dismissed from the team following an arrest, the remaining Smoky Bears banded together and knocked off Dobyns-Bennett 59-54 in the semifinals of the Region 1-AAA tournament.
Science Hill survived a stiff test from Jefferson County in the nightcap to win 50-49 the other semifinal contest.
Sevier County went 8-for-10 from the foul line in the final minute of the fourth quarter and pulled down a crucial offensive rebound to preserve the victory despite the absence of Schmidt, who was averaging 33 points per game in the postseason before his arrest on a domestic violence charge moments after scoring 30 points in a quarterfinal win over Sullivan South on Saturday.
“So much was made of the event that happened,” Sevier County coach Ken Wright said. “It was cut and dry to us. I learned about it Saturday night and Sunday afternoon had a meeting with Devin and dismissed him from the team.
“We hate it because he’s a good kid, but good kids sometimes do the wrong thing. But we’re not going to let one event spoil what these other 14 kids have done this year.”
Indeed, the rest of the Smoky Bears had no intention of bowing out with a berth in the TSSAA sectionals on the line. They overcame a sluggish second quarter and made all the right moves down the stretch to overcome a D-B squad that struggled to knock down shots from the perimeter.
Tribe coach Charlie Morgan said he was afraid his players might take Sevier County lightly once they found out Schmidt was not going to play.
“I don’t want to think that our guys had that in mind, but you never know with young folk,” Morgan said. “The thing I reminded them of is, yeah, their best player is not there, but somebody for them is going to step up. Sometimes things happen like that to a team, and kids rally around that.”
As it turned out, several Smoky Bears did raise their game and pick up some of the scoring slack. Point guard Jacob Whaley led the way with 17 points and Logan McCarter added 16.
Those efforts allowed Sevier County to absorb a 29-point outburst from D-B’s A.J. Anderson, who found a multitude of ways to score against the Bears’ 1-3-1 defense.
But in the end, Anderson’s heroics weren’t enough. The Indians hung tough the whole way, but an offensive rebound by Cody Underwood with 44.3 seconds left proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The Bears led 52-50 when Underwood snaked his way into the paint to grab a missed foul shot by McCarter to keep the possession alive. A few seconds later, Whaley hit a pair of foul shots and the Tribe wasn’t able to get closer than four points the rest of the way.
“We only had four fouls, so I said, ‘Guys you can really go hard at offensive rebounds. If they call over the back, it’s no big deal because it’s just their ball out of bounds.’ Cody went hard for the rebound, and that was huge,” Wright said.
Connor Mitchell added 11 points for D-B, which couldn’t come up with enough baskets to extend its season.
“We just didn’t have the perimeter shooting tonight that we needed,” Morgan said. “You’re not going to win them all, but you deal with your wins and you deal with your losses and you move on.
“We’ve got some young guys that will come back and have a season under their belt.”
In the nightcap, the Hilltoppers overcame a sluggish performance of their own thanks to a helping hand from Jefferson County.
With the score tied at 49, Science Hill opted to hold the ball for the final minute of the game in order to take the last shot. As point guard Patrick Good dribbled near halfcourt with less than 10 seconds to play, a Patriots defender reached out and fouled him, apparently under the impression that his team was down by a point and needed to extend the game.
Good made 1 of 2 from the line, and a baseline jumper by the Patriots at the buzzer rolled around the rim before falling away.
C.J. Good was the only Science Hill player in double figures, scoring 13 points to lead the Hilltoppers. Noah Carter scored 13 to lead Jefferson County.