by darren reese
GREENEVILLE – Friday night was one of those situations where South Greene head coach Stephen Gregg was happy to get the win, but fully aware that his team will have to play a lot better in order to go any further in the postseason
The Lady Rebels got a 30-point performance from senior Maelyn Cutshaw and overcame a couple of miracle three-pointers by Sullivan East to down the Lady Patriots 71-68 in overtime in the opening round of the Region 1-AA tournament on Rebel Hill.
South Greene advances to play an Elizabethton squad in the semifinals that beat them by a combined 45 points in their two regular season meetings.
“To beat teams here on out, we’ve got to do better than we did tonight as far as taking care of the basketball and making shots when we need to,” Gregg said. “But I’m proud of the girls for finding a way to win. This was a good Sullivan East team we played tonight.”
South Greene (23-10) appeared to have the Lady Patriots down for the count on several occasions, leading by as many as 11 midway through the third quarter.
But Sullivan East stormed back by out-scoring the Lady Rebels 17-9 over the final four minutes of the frame. A half-court heave by Brandy Watkins at the buzzer pulled the Lady Patriots within 44-41 heading into the final period.
Sullivan East managed to carry that momentum over and took its first lead since the two-minute mark of the first when Jamison Shafer hit a three to make it 49-47 in favor of the visitors.
The Lady Patriots increased their lead to as much a 55-50 with 2:30 left, but it wouldn’t be too much for South Greene to overcome
The Lady Rebels trailed 58-55 when Cheyenne Upton drained a shot from just inside the three-point line to make it a one-point game. After an East turnover, Cutshaw made a short jumper to put South Greene up 59-58 with 42 seconds left.
Cutshaw later added a pair of free throws to make it a 61-58 game.
East’s Savannah Summers was called for a charge with 9.4 seconds left and that looked to all but end it. But she got redemption when East got the ball back and she drained a three at the buzzer to tie the game at 61-61 and force overtime.
“They made the right shots at the right time, so credit their girls,” Gregg said. “We helped them out by missing free throws and throwing the ball away more than we normally do.”
Cutshaw wasn’t going to let this be her final game in a South Greene uniform, though.
She sandwiched a pair of key baskets around a Ricker jumper that helped the Lady Rebels open up a 67-63 lead in the extra frame.
Sullivan East managed to stay within striking distance, trailing 59-58 with 57 seconds left. But Ashton Wykle and Peyton Williams each made a free throw down the stretch to help ice the game.
“We’ve been through a lot of close games this year, but couldn’t seem to pull through in some of them,” Cutshaw said. “Tonight we were determined that we weren’t going to lose.”
“It was go big or go home. We went big and won. No one had doubt. Everyone contributed to the win.”
Cutshaw had the biggest night of them all. She scored 14 points in the first half to help South Greene open up a 27-19 lead after a back-and-forth first quarter.
After scoring just one point in the third, Cutshaw added nine in the fourth – including a 7-of-8 effort from the foul line – and six in overtime. She also recorded nine rebounds in the contest.
Juniors Alora Ricker and Cheyenne Upton also had stellar games for the Lady Rebels, scoring 12 points apiece. Upton added eight boards.
Summers finished with 19 for Sullivan East, all coming in the second half to help fuel the rally.
Watkins finished with 15 points in the loss.
GIRLS BOX SCORE
SULLIVAN EAST 9 10 22 20 7 68
SOUTH GREENE 12 15 17 17 10 71
Sullivan East (68): Savanna Summers 19, Brandy Watkins 15, James 8, Stewart 7, Stafford 7, Minor 3, Shafer 9
South Greene (71): Maelyn Cutshaw 30, Cheyenne Upton 12, Alora Ricker 12, Williams 6, Wykle 9, Wilhoit 2