The Volunteer boys basketball team notched its first conference win of the season on Thursday night inside the TeePee, beating Hawkins County rival Cherokee 59-52.
The two teams will meet again in the first round game in next week’s District 1-AAA tournament hosted by Cherokee.
“We’ve still got a ways to go, but we’re getting better,” Volunteer head coach Mike Poe said of his youthful squad. “We give up a lot on the physical strength side, and that’s where we’re getting hurt.
“Basketball is a learning experience, and there’s no magic wand where you can say ‘abracadabra’ and we know what we’re doing. That was a good experience for us for Monday to play in a tough atmosphere against the team that we will play.”
The Chiefs could not buy a bucket either to start the third quarter or late in the game.
The Falcons’ lead was trimmed to 53-50 with 2:13 left after trailing by nine points with more than four minutes remaining.
However, Volunteer was able to make enough free throws to pull it out and Cherokee went cold down the stretch.
Heath Miller was huge off the bench for Volunteer, leading the Falcons with 14 points while Dakota Hicks had 11.
FALCONS ASSERTIVE IN THIRD
The two rivals were tied at halftime at 25.
The Falcons came out of the locker room and hit Cherokee in the mouth, then went on a 10-2 run to grab a 35-27 lead with 2:29 left in the third quarter.
The Chiefs did not go away quietly, though. They settled down and closed to within four points before Volunteer pushed the lead out to nine (44-35) by the end of the period.
“We wanted to keep competing,” Poe said. “We had had times during the season when we came out flat in the second half. That’s what happened to us the first time we played Cherokee and we got beat badly. Everything’s a learning experience, and they competed until the final buzzer and I’m proud of them for that. I would have liked to have seen them make more free throws, though.”
CHEROKEE SCORING LEADERS
Breiydon Gilliam had a game-high 17 points for the Chiefs while Carter Metz netted 13 and Jonas Leeper tallied 11.
BULLS GAP MIDDLE RECOGNIZED
In between games, the Bulls Gap Middle School girls team was recognized for winning the school’s first area and sectional championships.
The Lady Bulldogs are in the TMSAA final four and play South Fulton on Friday in Nashville. Bulls Gap has a record of 24-2.
VOLUNTEER GIRLS WIN 43-36
In the span of about five seconds of game time, Volunteer went from being down one to up five with 2:13 left to play.
Audrey Evans got a steal at midcourt and laid one in and was intentionally fouled. She made one of two free throws and the Lady Falcons got the ball back.
On the ensuing inbounds play, guard Kenady Knittel nailed a 3-pointer from the corner and put Volunteer up 39-34 with 2:08 left.
That spurt was part of 13 unanswered points by Volunteer after trailing 34-30 with 4:32 left.
Cherokee only scored with five seconds left because Volunteer did not wish to foul.
Knittel was white hot all night from the perimeter, hitting six 3-pointers and finishing with a game-high 18 points.
Evans and Atlee Dean also reached double-figures in the scoring column, tallying 10 apiece.
No one for Cherokee reached double digits, but Lydia Alvis and Kaylan Henard each had seven.
“Hats off to Cherokee tonight,” Volunteer head coach Tyrone Smith said. “Those young girls played hard tonight. Don’t let that record fool you. … Our girls had to lock in on defense and I told them during the timeout that if they didn’t, we were going to lose this game.
“I told them that this was like the first round of the tournament next week. The next round is against Crockett and I’m just trying to get them in that tournament mindset.”