However, it did not come easily.
The Jr. Bucs needed an additional 9-0 run after a tie at 52 with 5:08 left, and it got them over the finish line with room to spare. The spurt ended when Central hit a runner in the lane with 2:40 to go.
“We thought in the third quarter that we were getting into a groove shooting and were going to pull away,” University High coach Herman Rice said. “Give Sullivan Central a lot of credit, though. They didn’t blink once and they never gave up. They battled us to the bitter end. Luckily, we started hitting some free throws and getting some key rebounds down the stretch.”
Central actually took a 52-50 lead after going on an 11-0 run of its own to start the final period.
“We needed to settle down and get back to who we were,” he said. “We let them control the tempo of the game and we got a little rattled, but most of my ball handlers are seniors and they’ve been through these wars before.”
It took a little while, but one of Northeast Tennessee’s best scoring guard duos in Marshall Fleenor and Kaleb Meredith got the ball rolling and poured in 48 of the Jr. Bucs’ points. Meredith led all scorers with 27 while Fleenor tallied 21.
“The thing with those two is that they work harder than anybody,” Rice said. “I’m thankful that they’re on my team and I don’t have to guard them.”
Central came out swinging and led the game after one quarter 16-13, but had it not been for a late flurry in the second, UH would’ve had a wider margin than 11 at the half.
What probably got the momentum rolling for the Bucs was a long made 3-pointer by Fleenor to close out the first quarter.
The Bucs were 16-for-19 from the charity stripe and hit 11 3-pointers on the evening.
Mason Broome threw in 14 for UH as well.
Three scorers were in double-figures for Central as Bryson Crabtree netted 18 while Preston Sams contributed 15 and Joltin Harrison had 14.
Sullivan Central 67, University High 21
The No. 6 Lady Cougars got off to a fast start, scoring the first 18 points and never looked back in a landslide nonconference win.
The first points for the Lady Jr. Bucs didn’t come until 2:31 left in the first quarter and the first made field goal wasn’t until 30.5 seconds remained in the period.
Ryleigh Owen made a 3-pointer from the corner for UH’s first made field goal.
Central senior Wofford signee Abbey Crawford certainly had her way in the paint all night, finishing with 14 points. And when the double team would come, she would kick it out to the perimeter for an open jumper.
Nearly everyone who got on the floor for Central scored, as most of the substitutes were in the game before the second quarter ended.
Allison Lambert had 13 points while Macy McClellan netted 11.
The Cougars committed only had six turnovers and had 19 assists on 30 made field goals. Central forced 17 steals and hauled down both 20 offensive and defensive rebounds.
Owen led University High with nine points.