BY SETH BUTLER
NEWPORT PLAIN TALK
NEWPORT - A spirited comeback by the Greeneville High School boys basketball team helped them celebrate their season opener in style on Thursday night in Newport.
The Greene Devils trailed by as many as 14 points, and by eight in the final period, but rallied to take a stunning 65-62 win over former District 2-AAA rival Cocke County High School.
In the evening's earlier game, the Lady Devils were unable to take care of the basketball as they committed 33 turnovers in a 54-38 loss to the Lady Red.
Devils rally for victory
Trailing by eight points at the outset of the fourth quarter, and Cocke County looking impressive on offense, Greeneville High School had other ideas for the final eight minutes.
Greeneville (1-0) limited the Fighting Cocks (0-2) to 11 points over the span of the fourth quarter. The Devils also forced five turnovers, which gave them seven crucial points that enabled them to close the gap and eventually prevail to the road win.
"Ball pressure is something we really emphasize in practice," Devils' coach Brad Woolsey said after the win. "We had guys getting their hands in the passing lane.
"It wasn't just one or two guys either, it was just a complete team effort," Woolsey said.
That team defensive effort, in a game marred by 45 fouls, was no more evident as that to shut down Cocke County High junior Dylan Dockery in the final period. Dockery had a game-high 21 points, but was held to only three points down the stretch.
While the assignment of stopping Dockery was handed to Cory Waddell, Woolsey said the entire Devils team had a hand in the defensive effort.
"Cory Waddell did a great job on him all night long," Woolsey said. "We didn't know a lot (on Cocke County) coming in but we knew (Dockery) was a good player.
"We didn't know that he had a complete game," Woolsey said. "We wanted Cory to put ball pressure on him and bring help and if (Dockery) got inside we were bringing help - the guys did a good job overall defending him, especially without a good scouting report."
Waddell however was instrumental in getting his team the win, as his pressure on Dockery resulted in a turnover, which he parlayed into the go-ahead basket with 2:39 to play in the game.
The chances for a Devils win seemed slim early in the game, as the Fighting Cocks opened the game on a 10-0 run and led 32-18 with 2:37 before halftime. Greeneville however closed the half on an 11-0 run and got themselves back in contention by trailing 32-29 at the intermission.
Cocke County however recovered and appeared to pull away in the third quarter. They never relinquished the lead as they led 51-43 headed into the fourth period.
Then Greeneville's defense struck. Just 1:44 into the third quarter, the Devils had cut the lead to 53-52 on a layup by Zach Cobble, who led the Devils with 17 points.
Cobble's play, in getting baskets in transition, was key for the Devils to earn the win.
"Zach played well and made all those good plays in transition," Woolsey said. "He made catches, difficult catches and made difficult layups.
"Most of his points tonight were from layups and that's because he ran the floor hard," Woolsey said.
Cobble had six points in the pivotal final quarter.
Lady Devils turned over in loss
A young team with inexperienced guard play showed in the Lady Devils season opener on Thursday night.
Greeneville committed 33 turnovers, which resulted in 34 Cocke County points in the Lady Devils 54-38 loss.
"We definitely had way too many turnovers tonight," Greeneville coach Lesley Murray said. "We're a young team, but we can't have that excuse all the time.
"We've got a new point guard and young guards, but we just had way too many (turnovers) to be successful," Murray said.
Their own turnovers spoiled what otherwise might have been a successful night for Greeneville. The Lady Devils shot over 40 percent from the field for the majority of the game and their defense forced Cocke County into 22 turnovers of their own.
However, Murray admitted that when a team can't secure the basketball they are unable to put themselves in position to score enough points to win.
"When you can't take care of the ball, it's hard to do anything offensively," Murray said. "I felt like our defense was there at times and we were getting some of the things that we wanted, but when you can't take care of the ball, you can't put yourself in an opportunity to score."
Greeneville (0-1) committed 18 of their turnovers in the opening half, but trailed only by a 22-21 score. Cocke County (1-1) led by a 20-9 score midway through the second quarter, but their offense became bogged down with turnovers, which Greeneville translated into a rally to claw within a point of the lead at halftime.
"I was proud of the way we fought back to end the first half," Murray said. "With youth and inexperience sometimes you can't handle adversity that well.
"I think we sort of got in that battle tonight and didn't handle those situations that well," Murray said. "We've got to grow up and get better."
Greeneville briefly took the lead in the third quarter and was tied at 28 apiece with 3:41 remaining in the period, but saw the Lady Red end the quarter on an 11-4 run to take complete control of the game.
Greeneville was led in scoring by post players Madison Shipley and Melissa Scott, who each had eight points in the loss.