Rebels, Lady Rebels Both
In Position For No. 2 Seeds In Upcoming District Tourney
BY TATE RUSSELL
SUN SPORTS WRITER
With 1.2 seconds left in the game, it all came down to a 15-year-old - 4,000 miles away from home - to make one shot.
The crowd at South Greene stood silent as Luca Gessner, an exchange student from Germany, stepped to the free throw line with almost no time left.
Gessner made the shot to give South Greene the go-ahead point and the Rebels went on to capture a key 59-58 decision in their final District 1-A regular season contest.
"That was huge," South Greene head coach Terry Hoese said. "He's a 15 year old kid and that was a ton a pressure. I'm just so proud of him for making it and I know he's proud he made it."
The win was crucial for South Greene (12-11, 6-4 district) in regards to the league standings as they end their schedule currently in a tie for second place with Cloudland.
The Highlanders have three district games remaining, including a showdown this Friday with rival Hampton, currently ranked No. 4 in the state.
Cloudland will need to win all three of those to finish in a tie with South Greene for the No. 2 seed for the upcoming district tournament.
So, not only did Gessner's clutch shot give the Rebels the win Monday night, but it may have very well earned them a first-round bye for district and an automatic berth in the region tournament.
The final shot was set up first by a made shot on the other end. Alex Baltaji put back a Logan Carrier miss for Unaka to tie things at 58 with eight seconds remaining.
The Rebels quickly moved the ball up the court and Gessner had a path to the basket at the top of the key. He drove the lane and was fouled just before the clock expired.
"If anybody is going to go to the basket in that situation, I would want it to be Luca," Hoese said. "I almost called a time out but looked up and didn't want them to set up their defense, so I just let him go. Thankfully he got the foul and then made one."
With all eyes on him, Gessner's first attempt clanged off the rim. With no more room for error, his second attempt went through.
The two teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 40-40 and in the final eight minutes the lead changed five times.
South Greene held the biggest lead of the quarter at 50-45 with 5:36 remaining but Carrier single-handedly erased that lead with a tough jumper and later a three-pointer.
Carrier was in nice rhythm the entire night, scoring 25 points with six three-pointers. At times it didn't matter where he pulled up from or how closely he was defended, he still knocked down the shot.
The Rebels looked to be in a good position to take a comfortable win with 36 seconds remaining when Dylan Yates sank a pair of free tosses to put South Greene up 58-53, but Carrier was not going to let the Rangers go down without a fight.
On Unaka's ensuing possession, Carrier took the inbounds and drove down the court before pulling up from deep and connecting.
Baltaji then followed with his put-back on the next trip down the court.
Daniel Lowery led South Greene with 19 points and seven rebounds. Trey Brown added 11 points and eight boards while Logan Tweed scored 11 points and tallied four steals.
"I'm very pleased with Daniel's effort," Hoese said. "He was mad at himself for missing some shots at the end but when it comes down to it he rebounded and played defense, and did what we needed him to do to win."
South Greene led 27-22 at the half, but Unaka used a 10-0 run midway through the period to move in front 37-31.
Lower answered with seven points in the final 2:15 of the frame to pull the Rebels even heading into the fourth.
A relentless defensive effort and a well-balanced offense led the South Greene girls to an easy 62-23 win over Unaka Monday.
The victory locked up the No. 2 seed for the Lady Rebels (21-8, 8-2) in the upcoming District 1-A tournament.
"I thought we played with more intensity tonight," South Greene coach Stephen Gregg said. "It was a good overall win and I liked that we were able to share the ball a lot tonight, that was good to see."
Four players scored in double figures for the Lady Rebels (21-8, 8-2), led by Ashton Wykle and Amber Jones who each had 12 points. Alora Ricker had 11 points and eight rebounds while Lyndsey Cutshaw added 11 points as well. Cheyenne Upton pulled down 10 rebounds in the contest.
South Greene's offense took some time to get going but their defense brought the pressure from the tip.
Wykle, Upton and Rachel Crum applied pressure for the full length of the floor and continually turned over the Lady Rangers and prevented them getting any good looks at the basket.
The defense was so stifling that it took Unaka (5-21, 1-7) 10 minutes of clock time to score its first basket.
South Greene held an 11-0 lead at the end first quarter and the margin had grown to 26-8 by halftime. But it was the second half that really pleased Gregg.
"We had not been coming out with a lot of intensity in the second half lately, and that is something we challenged them with at halftime tonight," Gregg said. "We want them to bring intensity for four quarters, not just in spurts, and I think they did a better job of that."
South Greene scored 20 points in the third quarter while only giving up nine.
It was a balanced effort from the Lady Rebels in the third period as five different players scored, led by Peyton Williams with six points.
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Rebels' bench got a lot of minutes and there was not much of a drop in production as they continued to rout the Lady Rangers. South Greene outscored the Lady Rangers 14-6 in the final period with primarily reserves.
Jones scored eight in the quarter, including two three-pointers.