By Ed Greif
The Stone Memorial Panthers defeated former Region 2AA foe Knox Fulton 62-50 Sunday afternoon to claim the Renasant Bank Christmas Boys Tournament 62-50 at Maryville High School and improved to 11-2 overall.
SMHS 62, Fulton 50: SMHS jumped out to a 14-8 first-quarater lead and stretched the advantage to 28-16 at the break. A 19-12 third quarter gave the Panthers a 47-28 lead, but the Falcons finished the game with a 21-15 run for the final margin, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
"We had a 13-day layoff. We came into the tournament kind of sketchy. But as the week progressed, we started improving. I was really pleased with their effort," said Nell Capps in his post-game comments with the News Sentinel.
"You never want to harp on last year, but as competitors, these young men have worked hard and they do have long memory," added Capps, who said he has great respect for the rich Fulton tradition built by Coach Jody Wright, whose team eliminated the Panthers from last year's region tournament.
Tyler Yoder led the Panthers with 16 points, followed by Luke Matthews (12), Justin Simmons (14), Brandon Thomas (9) and Parker Hill (3). Taylor Orme, Mitch Ball and Mason Baucom also played. Justin Simmons was named MVP.
"We have been playing together for a really long time. We know what each other is going to do. We like playing with each other and, even in a tough game, we know we can rely on each other," said Simmons in his post-game comments to the News Sentinel.
Matthews had two three-pointers, while Yoder, Hill and Thomas had one each.
SMHS 61, Maryville 53: The Panthers defeated Maryville in the semi-finals 61-53 Saturday night to earn their berth in the championship game.
After an 11-11 first-quarter tie, Maryville outscored SMHS 19-14 for a 30-25 lead at the break, but the Panthers outscored the hosts 36-23 in the second half for the victory.
Leading the Panthes were Gage Spence (6), Tyler Yoder (13), Brandon Thomas (6), Luke Matthews (15) and Mitchell Ball (3).
SMHS had 10 three-point baskets — Yoder (3), Simmons (1), Thomas (2), Matthews (3) and Ball (3).
SMHS 62, Austin-East 51:The Panthers used a second-half rally to defeat Austin-East to earn their semi-final berth of the tournament.
With the score tied 13-13 after one quarter, Austin-East outscored the Panthers 13-9 in the second quarter to take a 26-22 lead at the break.
SMHS exploded for a 25-13 third quarter to take a 47-39 advantage and then finished the game with a 15-12 spurt for the victory.
Leading scorers for the Panthers were Gage Spence (12), Tyler Yoder (15), Brandon Thomas (8), Mitch Ball (2), Justin Simmons (12), Luke Matthews (11) and Parker Hill (2). Taylor Orme and Collin Russell also played.
Spence had two three-pointers, while Matthews and Yoder had one each.
SMHS 61, David Crockett 58: The back and forth contest on Thursday night came down to the final seconds, as the Panthers led late in the game only to see David Crockett come back to take a 58-57 lead with 35 seconds left to play following six straight points by Patrick Good.
SMHS responded with two free throws by Luke Mathews to go up 59-58 with 14 seconds.
A late layup by Dan Hood attempted to put the Pioneers (10-5) back into the lead just missed, and Justin Simmons nailed two free throws to give the Panthers a 61-58 advantage with eight seconds left.
The Pioneers were unable to get off a potential game-tying three-pointer as time expired.
David Crockett led 14-10 after one quarter, but the Panthers used a 13-11 second quarter to slice the deficit to 25-23 at the break. A 19-15 third quarter gave the Panthers a 42-40 advantage, setting up the final quarter heroics.
Leading scorers for the Panthers were Gage Spence (10), Tyler Yoder (11), Brandon Thomas (12), Justin Simmons (21) and Luke Mathews (7). Also playing were Collin Russell, Taylor Orme, Mitchell Ball and Parker Hill.
Schedule: The Panthers will return home Friday afternoon at 4:30 to face Knox Karns and then travel to Alcoa for a 4:30 p.m. game Saturday.
(Editor's note: Kay Matthews supplied some of the information for this story.)