By Gary Robbins
Coach Neil Capps hit the road over the weekend for District 6AAA games at White County Friday and at Rhea County Saturday, but lost 71-68 at Sparta and defeated Rhea County 64-52 to go to 5-2 in the district and 18-6 overall.
The Panthers are third in the district behind Cookeville (7-1) and White County (6-2), and ahead of CCHS (4-4), Warren County (1-6) and Rhea County (0-8).
White County 71, SMHS 68: A packed house witnessed the two district combatants square off, but the Warriors would be hotter than the temperature outside, as they hit 18 of 28 three-pointers. There is an old saying, "you live by the three; you die by the three."
Even with a great shooting night from White County, the Panthers took the game down to the final seconds.
White County's 6'6" junior, Kordell Henderson, opened the game with a trey, which was quickly answered by SMHS junior Gage Spence. A foul on senior Tyler Yoder early in the first quarter which was not what the Panther fans wanted to see.
Three's were exchanged again, as Nash fired off and Yoder answered after getting the ball from Luke Matthews as dove to the floor and tapped the ball to his teammate. Cade Crossland nailed another trey for White County to tie the game at 13-13.
Justin Simmons went strong to the hole, was fouled and hit both free throws to tie it at 15-15. Mitch Ball came off the bench to drill a trey. With 10 seconds left, Crossland came down the floor and answered to tie the game at 18-18 to end the first period.
SMHS charged out to a lead in the second quarter, after Ball hit a three and Simmons hit a three off an offensive rebound. Spence hit from 20 feet to make it 26-20 with 4:18 left in the half.
White County was up to the challenge, as Cole Vaughn and Cade Crossland both hit threes to tie the game at 26-26 with 3:12 left in the first half.
Yoder hit a trey. Henderson hit back-to-back treys and almost hit three in a row, as one rimmed out as time expired in the half; however, SMHS led 33-32.
Matthews answered with an old-fashioned three, a bucket and a free throw, but Crossland hit three three-pointers to open the third quarter to give the Warriors the edge with 4:30 left in the third quarter at 43-38.
After a Stone timeout, Brandon Thomas got in on the action of the three ball, but Crosland hit another himself. Yoder bombed a three to keep Stone close with three minutes left in the third at 46-43 White County.
Vaughn hit a three which was answered by Simmons.
As the smoke cleared at the end of the third, White County had scored 22 points, of which 21 were from the three-point shot, shooting around 70 percent from behind the line and leading 55-48.
The three-point shooting was not over, as Henderson opened the fourth with another three, followed by teamate Vaughn for a 63-50 lead with four minutes left in the game.
The Panthers did not lay down and went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 63-56 with 2:59 left in the game. Thomas hit a three and it was a two possesion game at 63-59 with 2:35 to play.
After a put back of an offensive rebound and a Yoder three, Stone was within three with 43 seconds left at 69-66. Hendrson was fouled after he got a loose ball, and he hit both free throws in the double bonus making it 71-66. Yoder got off a three-point try that almost went in and he was fouled with under one second left. He made two of thee and the game ended 71-68.
Yoder had 21, to tie with Crosland who had 21 points on seven three pointers on the night. Simmons had 17, followed by Gage Spence (10), Thomas (9), Ball (8) and Matthews (3).
SMHS 64, Rhea County 52: The Panthers came out without showing any effects, after playing Lancasther Christian Thursday night and at White County Friday.
They opened the game with a 14-9 lead after one period of play.
Ball came off the bench to hit a three from the corner, and Stone started putting pressure on the Eagles to open up a 25-14 lead with 2:27 left in the half.
At one point, Stone forced three turnovers in a row with their press off of the made buckets. Simmons added a three to keep the pressure on Rhea County.
Stone took a 26-19 lead to the locker room, after a well-played first half.
The Panthers came out of the locker room and seemed to be more in sync as they opened with a 14-2 run, blowing the game open in the first three minutes to lead 40-21. This allowed Capps to give four of the five starters a well-deserved rest.
Rhea County made a run with the starters out and outscored Stone 13-6.
Stone was still able to close out the third period with a 50-34 lead. Taylor Orme and Frank Heilmeir got a bucket each off the bench. Rhea County left their starters in the game so Stone started the final period with their starters back. Matthews hit a trey and Yoder got a steal for a bucket as he was fouled on the drive.
Capps cleared his bench and got some playing time for his young men, as they closed out the game with a 64-52 win. Yoder led all scorers with 22. Justin Simmons, who had several blocks in the game, finished with 15, followed by Spence (8), Orme (5), Thomas (4), Matthews (3), Ball (3), Collin Russell (2) and Frank Heilmeir (2).
Schedule: The Panthers have another three homes game this week — CCHS at home tonight, Warren County Friday and Clarkrange Saturday.