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Patriots get in gear after halftime, dispatch Cougars

Johnny Wilson • Dec 4, 2019 at 2:08 AM

BLUFF CITY — Sullivan East may have let one get away on the road last December, but the Patriots weren’t as generous Tuesday night at the Dyer Dome, claiming a 72-59 win over visiting Sullivan Central in the Three Rivers Conference boys basketball opener for both teams.

A year ago, Central erased an eight-point deficit in the game’s final 1:38 and won a shocker at the buzzer. This time, East took charge down the stretch.

The Cougars (4-5, 0-1) led this early-season rematch at halftime by a 32-27 count, but the second half was pretty much all East (5-3, 1-0).

“Central has a good team and they played awfully well the first half,” said John Dyer, in his 32nd year as coach of the Patriots. “Our league ... whew ... our league is just going to be fantastic.

Cheryl Gray 📸📸📸

“I thought we came out in the second half and met the challenge. Eric Hare is a senior and he was the spark plug for us, getting rebounds and making assist passes and hitting a huge 3-pointer for us in the second half.”

The Patriots made 11 shots from beyond the arc, eight in the second half. Dylan Bartley nailed six himself and Mason Montgomery buried four.

Shooting the triple is just the way the Patriots roll.

“Well, yes,” Dyer said. “But we’ve got to shoot the right ones, and we did that.

“Montgomery hit all four of his in the second half and Bartley hit three of his. That really helped us get the upper hand a little bit.”

Bartley, who went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, finished with a game-high 24 points. Montgomery netted 16 and teammate Clayton Ivester kicked in 13.

Central was led by the 16-point outing of Ty Barb. Joltin Harrison had 14 points for Derek McGhee’s Cougars, and Bryson Crabtree contributed a dozen.

Harrison’s third 3- pointer of the first half, a 20-footer at the buzzer, provided Central with its five-point lead at intermission, but the Cougars could not maintain.

“We decided at halftime that Bartley would guard No. 1 (Harrison) and he did a really good job on him,” Dyer said. “Dylan is a complete player. He’s more than just a 3-point shooter — he can do everything.”

LADY COUGARS STILL ROLLING

Central, the defending Three Rivers champion, opened its league schedule with a 54-38 victory.

The unbeaten Lady Cougars won for the seventh time in seven outings, methodically inching away from the Lady Patriots for three periods before putting away East (4-4, 0-1) with a convincing fourth-quarter effort.

Up 29-26 at intermission and 38-30 after three quarters, Central looked to Abbey Crawford to put away the Lady Patriots over the final eight minutes.

A 6-foot-2 senior pivot who’ll play next season at Wofford, Crawford notched a game-high 22 points. She scored on three straight trips down the floor — twice on jumpers — to open the last quarter and pretty much seal the deal.

Macy McClellan scored 10 points and Avery Leming nailed three 3s to provide Crawford with excellent support.

“We came out kind of flat in the first half and East outplayed us,” said third-year Central coach Kristi Walling. “We had told the girls that East was capable, but I guess it took us until halftime before we realized it.

“In the second half we were able to speed up the tempo by playing better defense. We tell them, ‘Get your defense going and the offense will come,’ and that’s what happened out there at the start of the fourth quarter.”

Emma Aubrey hit four 3s and tossed in 12 points to lead East. Haley Grubb contributed 11 for the Lady Patriots.

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