SEYMOUR—Victory was in grasp, but brutally ripped away from the Cocke County Fighting Cocks on Friday.
The final free throws decided the game for Cocke County, and unfortunately, the Fighting Cocks were on the losing end. The opportunities down the stretch were missed from CCHS, and Seymour knocked down every free-throw attempt in the fourth quarter to lock up a 54-52 district win.
Cocke County (6-14, 1-8 District 2-AAA) started the game slow against Seymour (6-13, 1-8 District 2-AAA) and it caught up to it in the final seconds.
“We started the game out with a bad quarter,” head coach Ray Evans of Cocke County said. “That’s hard to come back from. We bounced back in the second quarter and stayed with them through the second half. When it came down to the final seconds of the game, we made some poor decisions. We have to do a better job during situations like that.”
After only scoring seven points in the first quarter, Cocke County had a comeback to make.
The Fighting Cocks took charge and made it a game after a 14-5 run to end the second quarter and only trailed by three at the half.
It was a back-and-forth battle between the teams in the second half as the third quarter came to a 36-36 tie. Headed into the fourth quarter, Cocke County grabbed a lead but lost it midway through as Seymour began to hit its shots.
Seymour saw itself ahead by four in the final two minutes of the game, but senior Chevy Ball of Cocke County stepped up to tie the game at 49.
From then, the Eagles took advantage of the free-throw line and knocked down five-straight. The Fighting Cocks cut it to two at 52-50, but Seymour did not miss from the line and grabbed the two-point victory.
“We had a chance to tie the game at one point,” Evans said. “It came down to a poor decision and (Seymour) hit its shots at the line.”
Seymour started the game off by junior Dylan Dickert banging in a 3-pointer. As two scoreless minutes passed for each team, Seymour hit another trey to give them a 6-0 lead to start.
After Seymour’s 8-0 start, Senior Elijah Fowler of Cocke County finally put the Fighting Cocks on the board with his own trey. The Eagles hit right back with their own three, though and took an 11-3 lead.
The Eagles hit one more time from deep to give them four 3s in the first quarter to go along with a 14-7 lead.
Cocke County suffered a 12-point deficit to begin the second quarter, as Seymour started on a 6-1 run. The Fighting Cocks soon started to chip into Seymour’s lead, though, after three-straight triples for them to only trail 23-20.
The hot shooting from the perimeter was part of a 13-1 run for the Fighting Cocks to knock into the deficit. Senior Kaelin Jackson tied the game with his successful and-1, and the teams sat even at 23.
“Kaelin is a very athletic player,” Evans said. “He can score when he gets hot. It’s difficult to stop him. He got it going on that run we had.”
Dickert picked up his play in the final minute of the second quarter with five-straight points to reclaim the lead for Seymour. With his help, Seymour led the Fighting Cocks 28-25 at the half.
“We had a wake-up call in that second quarter,” Evans said. “We became a lot more active and got our hands up on defense. We were able to find a run. We executed fundamentals of basketball in that quarter.”
Cocke County would march back to take the lead in the starting minutes of the third quarter with a small 5-0 run.
The run extended to a 10-1 run for Cocke County to take a 35-29 lead at the midway point in the quarter. Seymour picked up its play in the final minutes of the period to grab a 7-1 run to reach right back to tie the game up at 36 going into the fourth.
The fourth quarter started with 3-of-4 free throws made for the Fighting Cocks, as they took a 39-36 advantage. As it seemed Cocke County would separate itself enough, Seymour forced turnovers and hit shots to stay in place and take a 45-43 lead on Cocke County.
Cocke County tied the game with 1:23 remaining as Ball attacked down low for back-to-back baskets, but Seymour came up big at the stripe during crunch time with under a minute remaining by hitting five free throws to give them the win.
Cocke County had a chance to tie the game. After junior Trenidy Shelton of Cocke County knocked down 1-of-2 shots from the line, Jackson scored a quick layup to put the Fighting Cocks within two.
The final two shots from the stripe hit by senior Colin McGurk was enough to secure the 54-52 win for the Eagles. McGurk went 5-of-5 from the line in the fourth quarter.
“It was a matter of a little too late,” Evans said. “We needed to have to fight the entire game. We started poorly. We can’t wait until late in the game to get it going. It caught up with us.”
While the Fighting Cocks had late chances to pull out a victory, in the end it was their slow start that resulted in their demise.
“It’s almost like we have become content where we are at,” Evans said. “We are going to have to change that. We have to get back into practice and practice harder. We want to see a better effort to end the season. We can either step up as a unit or quit.”
Cocke County will return home to start next week by hosting Jefferson County for its annual Homecoming matchup on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Cocke County High School.