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Three Rivers-leading South survives Central challenge; Lady Cougars seize title

By PAT KENNEY, Sports Correspondent • Feb 5, 2020 at 2:21 AM

KINGSPORT — The Three Rivers Conference basketball rich got richer Tuesday night at Sullivan South, but not without a struggle.

Michael McMeans’ Rebels led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter before hanging on to edge Sullivan Central 66-61.

In the girls’ contest, the Lady Cougars (23-2, 11-0) clinched the Three Rivers regular-season championship with a 68-47 victory over the Lady Rebels.

A WIN, BUT ...

On a night the South boys earned at least a tie in the race for a conference title, they at times didn’t look like the 10th-ranked team in Class AA. And McMeans wasn’t happy with his team’s performance.

See Cheryl Gray’s 📸📸 from Tuesday

“Our effort tonight was embarrassing,” he said. “We weren’t ready to play and looked like we were just going through the motions.

“They thought that would be good enough, but not in this league. You have to come ready to play every night. We have to understand that everyone is competitive in this conference.”

South led 50-31 with 4:05 left to play before seeing the Cougars (9-18, 4-7) close to within five points on three occasions down the stretch.

“Too many stupid shots and turnovers,” said Rebels senior Cole Layne, who had 24 points. “We can’t just show up and win, we’ve got to keep working hard every game.”

Ben Diamond added 16 points and Cam Necessary hauled in 10 rebounds for South.

In the end, the youthful Cougars just made too many mistakes to overcome.

“We played hard but still have to remember what we’re trying to do,” said Central coach Derek McGhee.

“South is hard to guard. They have too many guys who can do whatever they want.”

Freshman Joltin Harrison led the Cougars with 23 points, including six 3-pointers.

Bryson Crabtree tallied 10 points and Jacob Fields grabbed 12 rebounds.

UNHAPPY WALLING

The Lady Cougars, ranked seventh in the state, won by 21 points, but coach Kristi Walling was not pleased with her team’s defensive effort.

“We started out like I wanted on offense and got a lot of transition baskets,” Walling said. “But then we relaxed and started letting South have too many open shots.

“If we want to achieve our goals, we are going to have to play better defense. This time of year that has to happen every game.”

Macy McClellan led Central with 14 points, and Abbey Crawford added 13 points, 12 boards and three blocks. Central finished with seven players with six or more points.

Alex Harris had 14 points and McKenzie Littleton added 11 for South (9-16, 2-8).

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