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Sullivan South tops North for back-to-back Action Athletics titles

Jeff Birchfield • Dec 31, 2019 at 1:31 AM

KINGSPORT — Sullivan South rose again in the finals of the Action Athletics Christmas Tournament.

The Rebels repeated as the basketball tournament champions by defeating host Sullivan North 62-47 in Monday’s all-Kingsport final at J. Richard Carroll Gymnasium.

Tournament MVP Cole Layne scored 18 points for the Rebels (13-1), who took a lead that hovered between seven and 12 points most of the game. They extended it to 19 on Ben Diamond’s free throws with 1:45 remaining.

“We came through a lot of adversity, hung in there, and finished it out,” South coach Michael McMeans said. “They changed their defense almost every trip down the floor. We let it bother us a little bit, but Cole put us on his back and Nick Ellege came in with three 3s and ended it.”

Diamond totaled 10 points and Ellege came off the bench with his trio of 3-pointers to also score 10. Gannon Chase finished with nine points and Cooper Johnson eight.

“I think Nick, Cam (Necessary) and Cooper probably had the best three-game stretch they had played in a while,” McMeans said. “I told those three guys, ‘What you do isn’t going to show up to get on the all-tournament team.’ But they deserve to be all-tournament players. Nick, in my opinion, is an all-conference player right now. He does everything we need him to. I’m so happy he got those (shots) to go down tonight.”

The Golden Raiders (9-5) fell behind 10-2 at the start of the game. They responded by scoring the next six points only to see South stretch its lead to 15-8 at the end of one quarter.

The Rebels answered every time the Raiders threatened in the second quarter and took a 32-20 lead into the half.

Layne was proud of the way his team stood up to the pressure of being the tournament favorite.

“We expect to get the other team’s best shot coming into every game,” he said. “Everyone wants to beat us, so we prepare for everyone’s best game.

“We were picked to win it, so that was extra pressure on us to get a win, but that was good for us.”

The Raiders pulled within seven points on a pair of Jacob Cross free throws late in the third quarter. But South countered again when Ellege drained a 3-point shot at the buzzer for a 46-36 lead.

North could get no closer than eight in the final quarter.

Trey Williams put up 15 points to lead the Golden Raiders. Christian Hill scored 12 and Bryant Herron added nine.

“We get it down to seven in the third and we knew Ellege could shoot, but we were focused on Cole Layne,” North coach Travis Cain said. “We slowed Ben Diamond down where he had 10 points, but Ellege made some big shots for them.

“Obviously, they’re well coached and they threw a lot of bodies at us. We threw two, three different defenses at them and then had to settle with man.

“I’m proud they didn’t get a lot of easy transition points on us like they have with a lot of teams,” Cain added. “I thought we got back well, but they got too many offensive rebounds and second chances. If they get two, three chances on a trip, they’re going to put it in the hole.”


Leading by two points at halftime, the Cougars (6-11) finally opened a little breathing room in the third quarter and went on to defeat the Eagles (8-4) in the third-place game.

Ty Barb led Sullivan Central’s offensive assault with 15 points in the battle between Blountville teams. Preston Sams contributed 14, Noah Beverly 13, Joltin Harrison 10 and Ethan Lane nine for the balanced Cougars.

“I’m super proud to finish like that,” Central coach Derek McGhee said. “I had someone say, ‘I don’t know if you will get six wins this season.’ We’ve got six before January.

“They’ve proven a lot. We’re young, but we’ve got talent and we continue to see progress.”

Gavyn Etter led a game effort for Tri-Cities Christian with 18 points. Adam Pigeon worked inside to score 12 and Drew Correll recorded 10.

“Tri-Cities is a good team. They’re good with their fundamentals and their two post players are hard to handle inside,” McGhee said. “No. 21 (Etter), if you leave him open, it’s going in. But we hit some shots and got off to a good start in the second half.”


Up by 18 in the fourth quarter, the Highlanders (8-4) held off the Fighting Cocks (5-11) in the fifth-place game.

Hunter Shell scored 22 points and had three steals to lead Cloudland, which was 3-1 in the tournament with its only loss coming to eventual champion South. Bentley Gilbert contributed a dozen points. Elijah Blair had nine points and 10 rebounds and Conner Birchfield totaled nine points and seven assists.

Baylor Baxter paced Cocke County with 13 points.


The Trojans (4-4) gained the upper hand early to win Monday’s opening game over the Pioneers (2-7).

Reed Samuel paced John Battle with 21 points. Zach Smith scored 12 and Jaylen Farley followed with 11.

Sage Potts produced a game-high 27 points for the Pioneers.