NEWPORT—The Cocke County Lady Red lit up the shooting chart on senior night against the Knox Central Lady Bobcats on Tuesday.
A step out of District 2-AAA play was taken by the Lady Red to grab their fourth-straight win late in the regular season. Cocke County felt the touch from behind the arch with 11 made 3-pointers in the 67-34 victory over the Lady Bobcats.
“We all brought it tonight,” head coach Jeremy Byrd of Cocke County said. “The seniors played absolutely incredible tonight. I wish we could always have nights like this. After a slow start, we really took off. You can’t ask for a better night than we had after hitting that many 3’s.”
Cocke County (16-9) continues to roll after the 33-point win over Knox Central (10-16). The Lady Red are finding the touch at the right time as they are streaking with wins to end the regular season.
Tuesday’s victory was accompanied by hot shooting and two major runs for Cocke County to separate itself for the big win.
CCHS had three players in double figures. Senior Mallory Clevenger dropped a game-high 24 points along with seven-made triples. Junior Heavan Baxter followed with her own 14 points, and freshman Sydney Clevenger added 10.
“Mallory has been shooting it really well lately,” Byrd said. “I’ve gone back and watched film against other teams, and she was knocking down threes in opponents’ faces. She has really stepped up.
“I”m really proud of all of my seniors. They are really playing like leaders now.”
The Clevenger duo combined for a total of nine 3-pointers made in the game. Cocke County hit nine of its 11 triples in the second half to grab a double-digit lead and coast to victory.
It was easy for the Lady Red to stay separated from Knox Central in the second half after a 23-17 advantage at halftime. An 11-2 run in the second quarter lifted the Lady Red for the rest of the game.
“We came alive with a little more energy,” Byrd said. “Once we started doing well, the crowd really got into it and got us going. I think that was the biggest difference. We just had to play with a little more energy.”
Another run was found in the third quarter as Cocke County put in 19 unanswered points — giving the Lady Red a cushion to finish the game.
“I knew we had it after that,” Byrd said. “We made some minor adjustments after halftime. I didn’t want us to rush. I saw once we set up in a press, we had (Knox Central) in a panic state. Once we got them uncomfortable, we took control.”
The first quarter began sluggishly for both Cocke County and Knox Central with only four points combined being scored in the first four minutes.
Central took a four-point advantage of 7-3 after freshman Aaniyah Johnson scored the Lady Bobcats’ five points. Sydney Clevenger was able to cut the deficit to one after her 3-pointer, but Cocke County could not grab a lead in the first quarter and trailed 8-6 after one.
“We came out flat,” Byrd said. “I think the pressure was getting to us. We wanted to do well tonight and get the shots to fall. Once we settled in, I felt like we took control of the game.”
Turnovers began to disrupt the Lady Red and gave Knox Central an advantage. After two turnovers from Cocke County to begin the second quarter, the Lady Bobcats grabbed a 12-7 lead.
The turnovers became its own virus as Knox Central caught the turnover bug. The Lady Bobcats gave up eight possessions in the quarter. Cocke County capitalized from the gifted opportunities to grab its first lead of 16-15.
Once the Lady Red grabbed a couple of buckets the momentum completely switched. Cocke County took off on an 11-2 run to end the quarter.
The Lady Red grabbed a 23-17 at the half along with Baxter’s 10 first-half points.
“We did a great job getting (Baxter) the ball,” Byrd said. “She did well finishing in situations. We needed her to get out there tonight and do what she does best.”
A rhythm was found from each team to start the second half, with both grabbing a couple baskets apiece. Cocke County matched Knox Central’s scoring to keep its lead.
Mallory Clevenger increased the lead to 31-21 after her second made trey of the third quarter. Mallory Clevenger knocked down her third triple of the quarter to give the Lady Red a 15-point advantage.
Cocke County expanded its lead with its 14-0 run in the midst of the third quarter and forced Knox Central to call a timeout. Nothing changed after the timeout for the Lady Red. They turned their run into 19-0 edge before Knox Central hit a shot.
The Lady Red grabbed a 47-23 after outscoring the Lady Bobcats by 18 in the third. Mallory Clevenger knocked down four of her seven 3s in the quarter as well.
Cocke County found six more points to start the final quarter and built a 53-27 lead and rode with that lead the rest of the way.
The lead quickly built to a 31-point advantage for the Lady Red with over two minutes remaining. The shots kept falling for Cocke County until the final buzzer sounded.
The Lady Red knocked down one more 3-ball to end the night and grabbed the 67-34 victory.
“It was a great shooting performance,” Byrd said. “I’m proud of the way they came out and got it done tonight.
Byrd hopes that this kind of play can continue as the Lady Red prepare for District 2-AAA tournament. Cocke County is set in the tournament as the fourth seed and will play fifth-seeded Morristown East in the District 2-AAA quarterfinals next week.
“Our records mean nothing now,” Byrd said. “It’s tournament time now. On a positive note, though, I really like the way we are playing right now. We have goals for this team and all of those goals are still reachable.”