Smoky tops Tuscola in boys tournament championshipThe Mountaineers’ Hardin scores 28 points, breaks single season scoring record in loss
There is a theory in sports that beating a really good team three times in a season is difficult to do.
A really good Smoky Mountain varsity boys basketball team is living proof the theory has some validity.
The No. 2 seed Mustangs, which already lost twice to conference regular season champion Tuscola, beat the Mountaineers, 65-56, in the WNCAC Boys Basketball Tournament Thursday night.
“We know how hard it is to beat a good team three times in a season, especially a good team like Smoky Mountain,” said Tuscola Head Coach Nathan Messer. “And I told the kids that the small details ... the hustle plays, would be the difference in the game and they were. They made those type plays, got the loose balls, the offensive rebounds, made the key shots, and we didn’t.
“Smoky Mountain was the better team on this night, it’s as simple as that. Still, I am proud our accomplishments during the season and nobody can take that away from these kids.”
Despite the Mountaineers’ shooting woes (6-of-33) from beyond the arc, senior Logan Hardin’s 28 points helped kept Tuscola within reach in the fourth quarter.
Hardin’s 28 points was good enough for game-high scoring honors and it’s believed he broke the single season scoring record at Tuscola, which was held by Kevin Bryant, a former standout at Furman University in the mid-80s.
But by the end of the game, Tuscola failed to muster enough offense from its usually reliable supporting cast to pull out a third victory over the Mustangs.
In fact, as the clock ticked off the final seconds, the large and rowdy Smoky Mountain crowd, which at times appeared to turn the friendly confines of the Tuscola gym into the Mustangs’ home court advantage, began to celebrate the upset victory.
Smoky improved to 23-3 and claimed the WNCAC championship trophy, while the Mountaineers suffered just their fourth loss on the season as their overall record fell to 23-4.
The No. 2 seed overall Tuscola boys will host conference foe and No. 15 seed West Henderson, at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the first round of the state 3-A West playoffs.
The Tuscola girls will tipoff at 6 p.m. on its home court tonight against visiting Erwin.
Smoky led, 18-12, at the end of the first quarter, 32-28, at the half and 48-40, going into the final eight minutes.
The Mustangs’ Cal Raleigh scored 11 points and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
Hardin was also named to the All-WNCAC Tournament team along with senior Thomas Hay, who scored seven points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Also for Tuscola, Aaron Westhusing and Woody Cornwall scored eight points each, Kendrall Harlan chipped in three points and Paul Leveritt finished with two points.