BY WAYNE PHILLIPS
SPORTS EDITOR EMERITUS
The Blue Ridge Athletic Conference race is really just beginning, but Greeneville took the early reins in the league after going overtime to nip visiting Grainger 74-69 Friday night at Hal Henard gym in a showdown between two conference unbeatens.
The Grainger and Greeneville girls also entered Friday's contest with unblemished BRAC marks, and the Lady Grizzlies escaped with a 47-36 win to take over sole possession of first place.
The Greene Devils are back in action tonight with a visit to non-league foe Jefferson County, then they return to BRAC play on Tuesday at West Greene.
DEVILS BLOW LATE LEAD, RECOVER
With slightly over a minute left in regulation, Greeneville (10-6, 3-0) had opened up a seemingly safe 67-60 lead, but a couple of mental errors down the stretch allowed the Grizzlies (10-5, 2-1) to rally and knot the game at 67-67 on a 3-pointer by Corey Bates with five seconds left.
The Devils got a look at the bucket by Anton Almqvist, who had sat out much of the game with foul troubles, but his shot bounced off the rim as the final seconds ticked away.
"We knew coming in that Grainger could really shoot the basketball," GHS Coach Brad Woolsey said after the game. "We didn't do some things well at the end of regulation, but what I was most proud of was we played with passion the whole game, and the overtime, and that's what I had asked them to do. It was a really good effort."
The Devils took the lead from the outset of the extra period when Hays Culbreth threaded a 3-pointer from the wing. After Logan Bates cut it back to 70-69 with a basket from inside the paint, a frantic minute followed with neither team able to score. Finally with 1:20 remaining, Raheem Young worked free for a layup to put the score at 72-69, and Grainger missed on two straight 3-point attempts and was never able to recover.
Culbreth led the scoring parade for the Devils with 18 points, while Quan Harrison scored 13 and Young had 12 points and nine rebounds. Leading scorer Trevor Wright was absent, as he was on a football recruiting trip to Wofford.
"We missed Trevor, for sure," Woolsey said. "You think of the offense he provides (averaging 13.5 ppg), but we might miss him more on defense. You put a 6-1 athlete on some of their shooters and maybe it would have helped."
Grainger got a game-high 19 points from Bailey Lamb and 18 from Darvel Walker. Corey Bates added 14. Lamb scored 16 of his points, including four 3-pointers, in the first half.
"Hays did a great job on 24 (Lamb) in the second half, and Quan got after 31 (Corey Bates)," Woolsey said. "They found them and defended."
The Devils led throughout the first quarter and maintained a 22-16 advantage, but Walker came off the bench to score nine in the second quarter and Grainger bolted into a 36-33 halftime advantage.
The Grizzlies led the bulk of the third stanza before a 3-pointer by Culbreth followed by a putback by Thomas Burkey allowed GHS to regain the lead at 52-49, and the home team held a 52-51 lead going into the final period.
Back-to-back baskets by Culbreth and Raheem Young boosted the home team's lead to 67-60 with 1:08 left, but then the Devils squandered it by making a turnover and missing a shot. Walker hit a pair of hoops to close to 67-64 and then Corey Bates made the long one as the final seconds ticked away to tie the game and force overtime.
GRAINGER (69): Logan Bates 4 2-3 10, Bailey Lamb 7 1-2 19, Corey Bates 5 3-6 14, Holt 1 0-0 2, Cabbage 1 4-5 6, Darvel Walker 8 1-4 18. TOTALS: 26 11-20 67.
GREENEVILLE (74): Quan Harrison 5 1-2 13, Miller 2 0-0 6, Raheem Young 6 0-0 12, Hays Culbreth 8 0-1 18, Almqvist 2 3-4 7, D.Dabbs 1 0-0 3, Benjamin 2 0-1 4, Burkey 3 0-0 6, I.Dabbs 0 0-0 0, T.Young 1 0-0 2, Moore 1 0-0 3. TOTALS: 31 4-8 74.
3-Point Goals: Grainger--6 (Lamb 4, C.Bates, Walker). GHS--8 (Harrison 2, Miller 2, Culbreth 2, D.Dabbs, Moore).
Score by quarters:
Grainger 16 20 15 16 2--69
Greeneville 22 11 `19 15 7--74
LADY DEVILS BATTLE
Grainger is regarded as one of the best Class AA teams in the state and is the odds-on favorite to win the Blue Ridge title this season.
They have taken over sole possession of first place in the league (14-3, 3-0), but not before Greeneville (8-7, 2-1) turned in one of their best efforts of the year.
With All-State candidate and Carson-Newman signee Allison Hodge scoring 27 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, the Lady Grizzlies won 47-36. Celeste Stratton chipped in with 10.
Greeneville appeared on the verge of getting blown away, as they trailed 27-11 at halftime. But a much more determined and aggressive defense in the second half allowed Grainger to score only three points in the third period and the Devils clawed back within striking defense.
"I saw a lot of good things out there tonight," first-year GHS Coach Annette Watts said of her Lady Devils. "We played very, very well on defense and I'm proud of my team.
"When the game was over I told the girls in the locker room there would be no heads dropping down in there. Our goal was to hold them under 57 points and they got only 46. That's a win for us, as far as our progress goes. It's all part of the process, and every day they're getting a little bit better at it."
Hodge scored 15 in the first half and Grainger led big, but the Grizzlies made an uncharacteristic eight turnovers in the third quarter and the Devils carved the deficit down to 30-19 entering the final quarter.
They had a chance to get it back to single digits, but Grainger spurted behind Hodge, who scored 10 in the fourth quarter, and pulled out to a 20-point spread at 43-23 with three minutes left.
Lorena Leon then sparked another mini-rally, hitting three 3-pointers down the stretch to again keep the Grizzlies from pulling away. But there was just not too much GHS could do with Hodge.
"We tried to concentrate on 24 (Hodge), but my, what a good player she is," Watts said. "She's fun to watch play the game."
Lorena Leon's three treys down the stretch allowed her to be the leading scorer with nine points. Madison Shipley had eight points, four assists and three steals along with six rebounds. Melissa Scott also scored eight for GHS.
GRAINGER (47): Black 0 0-1 0, Farmer 1 0-0 2, Spoone 1 1-2 3, Celeste Stratton 4 1-2 10, Allison Hodge 9 7-7 27, Lamb 2 1-2 5. TOTALS: 17 10-14 47.
GREENEVILLE (36): Hadjopoulos 1 0-0 2, Lorena Leon 3 0-1 9, S.Leon 0 0-0 0, Neas 2 0-0 4, Grubbs 2 0-0 5, Shipley 3 2-2 8, Lowery 0 0-0 0, Scott 2 4-6 8, Lamb 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 13 6-9 36.
3-Point Goals: Grainger--3 (Hodge 2, Stratton). GHS--4 (L.Leon 3, Grubbs).
Score by quarters:
Grainger 9 18 3 17--47
Greeneville 7 4 8 17--36