BY MATT LAWS
SPECIAL TO THE SUN
It certainly wasn't pretty. However, the North Greene boys' basketball team will take it.
The Huskies punched their ticket to the Region 1-A tournament with a 64-54 over Cloudland on Friday night in the District 1-A tournament at Daniel Boone High School in Gray, Tenn.
"In our conference, none of the wins are pretty because everyone is so well coached," North Greene Head Coach Brandon Broyles said. "They are a great ball team, and my kids did a great job matching their effort and their intensity and how hard-nosed they were."
The Huskies advance to play No. 2 South Greene at 8:30 p.m. tonight, in the semifinal of the District 1-A tournament at Daniel Boone.
From the opening tip, it was a battle between two evenly match teams. Tanner Collins and Cloudland's Austin Whitehead traded baskets in the opening minutes, and a pair of Troy Hall free throws sparked a 6-0 Huskies run to put NG up 13-9 at the midpoint of the frame.
The 'Landers, however, battled back as Zac Benfield scored on a layup, and found Logan Russell for four points to regain an 18-17 lead for Cloudland at the end of the first.
In the second quarter, the Huskies saw Will West and Kameron Taylor hit shots to take a 27-20 advantage with just over three minutes to play in the first half. The 'Landers responded with seven straight to tie the game, but North Greene added a pair of free throws from West to take a 30-29 lead into the second half.
Cloudland opened the second half with a 6-0 run. The Huskies countered with a 3-point play from Zane Britton. The teams traded points for the rest of the quarter with Britton scored the last four North Greene points to take a 40-39 lead heading to the fourth.
The Huskies saw the 'Landers take a 46-44 lead in the opening minutes of the final period. Tyler Bailey pushed North Greene back into the lead with four straight points, but Preston Benfield and Colby Birchfield countered on the opposite end to give Cloudland a 50-49 advantage with just over three minutes to play.
Collins and Bailey hit shots for the Huskies to take the lead again. From there, North Greene finished the game 15-of-16 from the free throw line to secure the win and advance.
"That is just kids wanting the ball and stepping up and knocking them down," Broyles said. "The weather got us kind of behind. We had a two-hour walkthrough this morning, which is a little long for a gameday. In the last 10 minutes, we shot free throws and my message was this might win us the ball game tonight and it did."
Britton and Hill led the way with 16 points, while Collins tallied 13 points. Bailey finished the game with seven points.
"It is a great win," Broyles said. "It has been a little while since the team got to go so I am tickled for the community. It is a great bunch of people at Baileyton that support us as you can see. Those people love their basketball, and I am thrilled and honored to take them to the regional tournament."
Birchfield and Z. Benfield had 12 points apiece for Cloudland.