By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain knocked off defending Mountain Six Conference champion Hendersonville 62-56 Friday in men’s basketball action at the SM gym.
The Bearcats had won 18 straight games against league opponents.
Mitch Wike and Parker Flynn both scored 15 points for the Mustangs (7-5, 2-0), who moved into sole possession of first place in the MSC. Conner Seagraves added 11, and Zeb Sink had 10.
Keenan Wilkins scored 18 points for the Bearcats. Dwight Canady, Jake Ross and Joel Christner all finished with 11.
“I’m so proud of our kids,” Coach Adam Phillips said. “We were dialed in, focused and ready to go. Our kids knew what was at stake. We battled hard and believed. It was a huge win for the program.”
“It’s a feeling that we’ve had before on JVs but that didn’t mean too much to us then,” Wike said of beating the Bearcats. “Now it’s an unbelievable feeling. We know what we have to do, what lies ahead and we need to come ready to work. We’re just giving God all the glory and are thankful for this opportunity.”
Wike said when things went bad, such as a stretch early in the second half, the team came together.
“We had some uncharacteristic turnovers, and we addressed that as a team in time out or out on the floor,” he said. “We knew what we needed to do as teammates. We held each other accountable. Our matchups and boards were the two biggest keys. (Assistant) Coach (Jeremy) Cauley preached boards, boards, boards, and it turned out that was a top key.”
There were five lead changes and three ties in the fourth quarter.
SM took the lead for good at 57-54 on Sink’s three-point play with 1:16 left in the game.
The Mustangs hit five of six foul shots in the last 35 seconds to stay on top.
Hendersonville opened the second half with six straight points, including four by Christner, for a 31-23 advantage with 5:33 remaining in the third period.
The Mustangs turned things around with an 11-2 spurt, including four by Flynn, to go up 37-36 with 1:02 on the clock.
Ross’ three-pointer gave the Bearcats a 39-37 edge with 49 seconds to go, and they led 43-40 entering the fourth quarter.
After three ties in the opening stanza, Flynn scored five straight points putting SM up 13-8 with 38 seconds on the clock.
The margin was 13-10 at the quarter break.
After trailing most of the half, Hendersonville led 25-23 at halftime on Ross’ three-pointer as time expired.
Wike made six field goals, including a three-pointer, and two of two foul shots. Flynn connected on seven field goals and a free throw. Seagraves hit five field goals, including a trey. Sink’s points came on four field goals and two foul shots.
Michael Todd scored seven, and Clayton Frady had four.
The Mustang JVs are 5-7 as they came from behind to win 39-32. Brylen Conlin scored 12 points, and Vaughn Ellis had 10.
The Bearcats led at quarter breaks by scores of 9-3, 17-12 and 24-17.
“We were down a good portion of the game,” Coach Tyler Mulligan said. “We could not make a layup or free throw to save our lives. We kept fighting back and knocked down some big shots the last four minutes of the game. I’m very proud of the team for their effort.”