NEWPORT—Cocke County Lady Red forward Gracie Gregg is just a freshman, according to the roster. But based on her late-game heroics against Greeneville it’s clear she’s well beyond her years on the floor.
After trailing in the first half Cocke County fought back into the game in the fourth quarter with much help from its strong core of freshmen. Camryn Halcomb forced overtime with a clutch basket in the waining moments of regulation, while Gregg scored the final two baskets of overtime to lift the Lady Red to a 42-40 buzzer-beating victory over Greeneville.
“It was a thrilling night,” head coach Jeremy Byrd of Cocke County said. “We never gave up and kept battling. We had a great pregame speech and the girls took it to heart and improved in all the areas. We found a way to get it done even without shooting too well. I’m so proud of all the girls and how they handled this game.”
Cocke County’s (11-7) first-half struggles caused the double-digit deficit to fight back from in the second quarter, but the freshmen took on a bigger role for another nail-biter.
“We are all learning from each other,” Byrd said. “The seniors have the experience. The freshmen are energized and want it. I think it’s a really good mixture. I can’t say enough about how much these freshmen have stepped up. The seniors really push them in practice. I like what we have in the locker room.”
A Greeneville (8-9) lead of three that would not disappear in the fourth quarter until Halcomb knocked down a 3-pointer with under two minutes to play in regulation to tie it up.
“I felt good about the 3,” Halcomb said. “I wasn’t really shooting well, but the rest of the team pulled through. I owe it to the seniors for all of their leadership.”
From there the team fought, as they were tied 35-35, but nothing was falling for either team. Halcomb’s shot would force overtime.
Greeneville nearly pulled away in overtime after taking a 39-35 lead, but the Lady Red’s defensive pressure held the Lady Greene Devils to one more point for the game. Cocke County cut the lead to 40-38 and Gregg drove to the basket to tie the game at 40.
Cocke County came out of the timeout with 4.5 seconds remaining, and another drive to the basket from Gregg ended up being the game-winning layup.
“Byrd told me, ‘if you get the ball you have to go,’” Gregg said. “I knew I couldn’t get an easy layup so I had to reverse. I didn’t think there was any way that shot was going in. I had so much pressure on myself. I just have to relax.”
Gregg and Halcomb finished with six points each, as senior Shayla Stewart had a team-high 10 points in the victory.
It was Greeneville to take the advantage on Cocke County starting out in the first quarter with a 6-0 run. A run that was delivered by physical play and shots inside the paint for the Lady Greene Devils.
“They manhandled us early,” Byrd said. “I told the girls that the refs were letting us play. We kept our composure and stayed in it. We did get away with some things as well as they did.”
The Lady Red’s first points came from the line with two shots from junior Heavan Baxter. Right after, Greeneville attacked once again and built an 11-4 lead with the quick-scoring offense. Senior Leah Fillers led Greeneville to the 15-6 lead after one with her nine points in the quarter.
Cocke County slowed the fast-pace offense from the Lady Greene Devils to begin the second quarter, but the Lady Red could not find the shots to cut the deficit.
Stewart was sure to change that for Cocke County, though. Stewart pulled off a quick spin down low for a bucket and followed it up by draining a triple to put the Lady Red within six. Greeneville’s 19-13 lead grew to a 10-point, 23-13 lead until freshman Sydney Clevenger’s triple put Cocke County back within single digits, but the Lady Red still trailed 23-16 at the half.
“It was a rough night offensively,” Byrd said. “We had some awesome looks but couldn’t knock them down. I don’t know how we won shooting like that, but you never know until the game is played.”
Cocke County struggled coming into the second half, but Greeneville did as well. The Lady Red could not find a bucket in the first four minutes, however Greeneville only found one made basket.
Baxter got the Lady Red rolling with a 7-0 run after the poor start and Cocke County cut the lead down to 27-23. Greeneville’s only bucket in the final three minutes came from a free-throw, and Cocke County ended the quarter on a 9-1 run, but still trailed 28-25.
“We kept fighting no matter what,” Byrd said.
The Lady Greene Devils slowly expanded their lead to eight after knocking down shots from the charity stripe to begin the quarter.
Cocke County cut it back to three points, though, after back-to-back scores inside including a successful and-1 from Stewart.
As soon as Greeneville went back up five, Halcomb stepped up in clutch time with five-straight points including the 3-pointer to tie the game at 35. As the final minute ticked down, neither team was successful in grabbing the lead, and overtime was set being tied at 35.
Gregg shined in overtime after Greeneville fought to take the lead and stay ahead with under a minute. Cocke County stayed alive with offensive rebounds in the end and gave Gregg the chance to tie the game up at 40 with her inside bucket.
Greeneville had a chance to take the game with under 10 seconds remaining but gave it back to Cocke County for Gregg to hit the game-winner.
“I wanted to spread the floor out with some high balls screens,” Byrd said. “Camryn had some shots that were huge and a rebound that was huge. We were attacking the rim and took advantage of it.”
Cocke County defeated Greeneville 42-40 off of Gregg’s up-and-under layup out of a sideline out-of-bounds play with less than five seconds remaining.
The thrilling victory gets Cocke County back on the right foot before heading back into District 2-AAA play at home later tonight.
“We are facing a good team tomorrow,” Byrd said. “I want us to come out and match intensity. We have to take care of the ball and just play our game and I think we will be okay.”
The Lady Red will host district rival Morristown West at Cocke County High School tonight at 6 p.m.