With the backcourt tandem of Aaron Frye and Gavin Grubb combining for 45 points, East earned the milestone victory over Sullivan Central 69-53 for Dyer before a large crowd of adoring fans and former players.
“We have a great community and we have a great school. To see the fans from the community come out on a Tuesday night right before Christmas and to see so many former players … it’s a special moment,” said Dyer. “It’s a magic number and it’s special.”
With East (12-1) leading by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter, Dyer was also able to soak up the moment with wife, Cindy.
“The last two minutes my wife got to come down and I got to give her a hug,” added Dyer. “She’s been there every second of every game.”
With the milestone looming, East admittedly was a bit apprehensive early in the game.
“We might have been pressing a little bit,” said Frye. “I think we were a little nervous at the start, but we settled down as the game got going.”
Frye had a big hand in the settling, netting eight of his 19 points in the first quarter.
“Aaron stepped up in that first quarter and kept us afloat,” noted Dyer. “Then Gavin came alive in that second quarter. I’m glad Gavin Grubb is on our team.”
Grubb poured in half of his game-high 26 points in the second stanza giving East a five-point bulge at halftime, 40-35.
“This means everything, getting this 500th win for Coach Dyer,” said Grubb. “He means the world to us. We’d do anything for him and he’d do anything for us.”
Despite the 28 combined first-half points from Frye and Grubb, Central matched the Patriots basket for basket thanks to a breakout game from junior Jordan Self, who scored 11 of his team-high 16 points before intermission.
“It wasn’t too long ago, Jordan was on our church’s prayer list and a lot of other church’s prayer list,” said Dyer, referencing Self’s football injury. “I think he’s back.”
The Cougars, however, cooled in the second half, scoring only nine points in both the third and four quarters.
“I would have liked for Coach Dyer to get his 500th win in the next game, but I really respect Coach Dyer a lot,” said second-year Central coach Derek McGhee who has now both played and coached against Dyer. “He’s a special guy, a special coach and his kids play awfully hard.”
McGhee said the game got away from his Cougars (4-6) on the glass.
“We are a small team and everybody has to block out and their guards were outrebounding us and putting it back in,” added McGhee. “They shot it until they made it, that’s the bottom line.”
Aaron Rose added 12 points and Luke Hutson 11 for the Cougars.
“That was Jordan’s breakout game,” continued McGhee. “That’s what we’ve been waiting on. We just need some other people to score. We just couldn’t get a shot to go down in the second half.”
Mason Johnson added a dozen points for the Patriots along with a host of other intangibles much to the delight of Dyer.
“Mason Johnson played a huge game, scoring in double figures getting a lot of rebounds and also taking two huge charges,” added Dyer.
After the game, Dyer was joined in the locker by a host of former player and former Sullivan Central coach Dickie Warren, who granddaughter Alyssa Hare, plays for the Lady Patriots.
“Coach Warren is awesome, he’s a guy that I have the utmost respect for,” said Dyer. “When I started coaching at Sullivan East you had Coach Warren, Coach (Buck) Van Huss at D-B, Coach (George) Pitts at Science Hill and Coach (Bobby) Snyder at Boone. Then you had Coach (Dale) Burns at Tennessee High who also won over 500 and also Coach (John) McCreary at Sullivan North. I mean…come on.”
In the opener, the Lady Cougars (8-4) won their fifth straight game and fifth game in six days with a 63-54 win over the Lady Patriots (6-6).
Trailing by one at halftime, 28-27, the Lady Cougars scored the final 13 points of third quarter to lead 43-31. After being unable to find her jersey earlier in the day, Sydney Hurd found her shot in the third quarter, pouring in eight of 12 points in the frame.
“My first instinct as a mom is to fuss at her, but I was trying to keep her calm because I knew she would be jacked up when she got here and I was able to find the jersey at school,” said mom and coach Monica Hurd.
Sydney picked up two fouls in the second quarter but came alive in the third quarter spurt.
“We had to sit Sydney down with the fouls, because we have to have her,” added Coach Hurd. “We were able to put her back out there in the second half and she knew what she needed to do.”
Sara Madgett closed the third quarter with back-to-back drives and baskets in the lane. A three-pointer by Taylor Sanders early in the fourth pushed the lead to 46-32 and another Sanders basket expanded the cushion to 52-37, the largest of the game for Central. Sanders finished with a game-high 15 points.
“Taylor needed this kind of night and I’m so happy for her,” added Hurd. “She’s so unselfish I have to tell her to shoot. She saw the floor well tonight and dished out those assists and she rebounds well. She also defends their best scorer. She’s like that silent player you don’t want to be without.”
Meg Crawford added 12 points for Central while Madgett finished with ten. Alyssa Hare and Megan Addison paced the Lady Patriots with 11 each. Kayla Honaker chipped in with ten.