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Lady Rebels win 12th straight; South boys complete sweep

By STEVE WILMOTH, TriCitiesSports.com • Jan 3, 2018 at 1:27 AM

KINGSPORT — Sullivan South was riding along at 7-3 before its top two scorers went down. With 25 points riding the pine, the Rebels’ offense went South in seven consecutive defeats before a win was salvaged in the final game of the Hancock County Pizza Plus Christmas Classic last week.

Back in the friendly confines of the Rebel Den on Tuesday evening, the Rebels (9-10) put together their best offensive performance in over a month in a 65-52 victory over KACHEA.

View the boys’ photo gallery

The win completed a sweep of the homeschooled Wildcats on the night after the Lady Rebels extended their winning streak to 12 straight with their 62-17 victory.

The decisions also enabled both South squads to compete the sweep in the season series.

With top scorers Ben Diamond and Chase Bowery on the floor, the boys labored to a 59-56 win in the teams’ first game on Nov. 28. Neither was available the second time around, although senior Devonte Mitchell was. Mitchell was one of three Rebels in double figures on the night.

“That’s what we’ve got to have with 25 points sitting on the bench right now,” said South coach Michael McMeans. “We’ve challenged the other guys to step up and maybe they’ve finally turned the corner.”

Jared Strickland, KACHEA’s high-scoring junior, had 23 points in the first meeting and 25 in this one, though he managed only five in the first half Tuesday.

Earlier this year, Strickland scored over 30 against Sullivan Central and dropped 38 against Sullivan East.

“Not a lot of people know about their team or Strickland,” McMeans noted. “He could start for just about anybody in our league. You really have to guard him; he can play.”

McMeans tasked sophomore Cole Layne with that assignment with plenty of help along the way. The help waned, however, as foul totals on the helpers amassed.

“We tried to take everything away from him (Strickland),” McMeans added. “Cole is one of our stronger kids and he did a great job.

“We gave help with a lot of people, but with foul trouble, we couldn’t give as much and he got off a little bit.”

South scored the game’s first seven points and never trailed, although the Wildcats did knot the score at 9 in the first quarter.

Lane ended the quarter with a 3-pointer and South outpointed KACHEA 10-1 to start the second to open a 22-10 lead.

Strickland poured in 14 of his total in the third quarter, but the Wildcats couldn’t make up enough ground.

Preston Quillen added 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for KACHEA.

Layne paced South with 18 points and Ethan Ward and Mitchell scored 11 each. Mitchell also grabbed nine rebounds while Ward added five rebounds and four assists.

The Lady Rebels’ winning streak is their longest in years, according to those who have been around the program for the better part of the past two decades, and comes after five straight losses to start the season.

View the girls’ photo gallery

“We are another year older, we are playing together and performing our roles,” said South coach Torey Haile. “And basically, I think we just want to win badly enough to make it happen and we’ve learned how to win now.”

The Lady Rebels jumped to a 20-4 lead at the end of the first quarter and 39-13 at intermission.

Every South player who saw the court scored, paced by Mollie Leslie’s 15 points, all of which came in the first three quarters. McKenzie Littleton added 13 off the bench and Alex Harris tallied 10.

Mary Faust sank three of the Lady Wildcats’ five field goals in the game, two from long range, for a team-high eight points.

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