STRAWBERRY PLAINS—While still improving, the Cocke County Fighting Cocks were no match for the hot shooting from the Carter Hornets on Thursday.
The non-district game turned into a shooting fest for Carter in the first and fourth quarters. Cocke County did show fight to cut it to single digits, but the energy only lasted so long as Carter defeated the Fighting Cocks 83-63.
“We didn’t take care of the basketball tonight,” head coach Ray Evans of Cocke County said. “At the end of the game, Carter had 31 points off of our turnovers. You aren’t going to beat anybody playing like that. You have to take care of the ball when you play teams like that.”
Cocke County (6-16) now drops its eighth-straight game after the rough game against Carter (14-6).
It’s been a tough stretch of games for the Fighting Cocks, but the group has continued to fight and strive to improve with the season winding down. Evans is still seeing a positive character from his team despite the losses.
“We have been working,” Evans said. “It was a tough game tonight, but in the last few games, we have still had some character to us. We have to really start showing our character in the games we have remaining.”
Cocke County had three players in double figures with junior Isaiah Elliott scoring a team-high 18 points, followed by senior Chevy Ball with 17 and junior Trenidy Shelton with 12.
“We didn’t have enough toughness against Carter,” Evans said. “When we played them at our place, we didn’t give up on 3’s and layups. We got here and were struck. We had some players step up at times, but not enough.”
Although the three combined for 47 points, it did not match the scoring Carter had going Thursday.
The Hornets managed to have four players combine for 66 points. Junior Braden Clevenger dropped a game-high 20 points along with four made 3-pointers. Senior Trey Prater added in 17 points, sophomore Colby Reynolds scored 16, and junior Gabe Harper pitched in 13.
The four pushed Carter to the big lead that led to a victory.
“We gave up too many second-chance points,” Evans said. “Carter had to have at least 20 points just from second-chance points. We have to rebound better.”
Carter jumped into the first quarter with a 7-0 start until the Fighting Cocks hit a shot a few minutes into the game. The Hornets did not show any mercy, though, and led Cocke County 15-4 midway through the quarter.
Cocke County started to pick up to finish the quarter out, but Carter built a 25-10 lead before that happened. The Fighting Cocks had five-straight points to cut the lead down to 10, but Carter bounced back to match Cocke County, taking a 27-15 lead into the second period.
“We were moving in slow motion,” Evans said. “We were jogging around and standing still a lot. We have to come out with a little more fire than that.”
The Fighting Cocks began the second quarter with eight-straight free throws and were 5-of-8 at the line. Carter remained ahead with a 10-point advantage, though.
Senior Kaelin Jackson of Cocke County was finally able to cut the deficit to single digits after a strong finish down low. Carter led 31-22, but Ball cut the lead to seven after his bucket.
“I saw some life out of the team,” Evans said. “We had fight. We had some stops and started knocking down shots. We edged and clawed with them, but the last two minutes of the second quarter we fell apart again.”
The Hornets pulled away with a 12-0 run right before the halftime buzzer and built a 19-point, 43-26 lead going into the break.
Both teams started at a slower pace to begin the third quarter, but Carter built a big enough lead by the half that the slow start was okay. Cocke County kept up with Carter’s scoring pace in the quarter, though. Ball converted an and-1 to drop the deficit back to 15.
Carter picked back up with an 8-2 run in the third quarter that was led by Clevenger’s back-to-back treys to give the Hornets a 59-38 lead. The Fighting Cocks only chipped in two more points to close out the third quarter and trailed 59-41 heading into the fourth.
The Hornets started the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run to cushion their lead. Carter did not slow down either, and the Fighting Cocks did not have enough firepower to match all the shots it was hitting.
Three 3-pointers were sunk by the Hornets to give them a 25-point lead at one point, allowing them to coast the rest of the way to a 20-point victory over CCHS.
The Fighting Cocks have five games remaining on their regular season schedule that include two District 2-AAA games. Evans has seen his team rise in the district tournament, but he wants to see it before the postseason is here.
“We have to pick it up and do the fundamentals of basketball,” Evans said. “We have given a lot of games away because of a dead quarter we’ve had. I know we can compete with these teams. We have to come out with toughness and play like we are capable of playing.”
Cocke County has a chance to bounce back with a game on the road at Union County at 8 p.m. on Monday.