By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain’s men opened Mountain Six Conference basketball action with a 54-48 win Jan. 7 at Pisgah.
Clayton Frady led the Mustangs’ balanced scoring attack with 13 points. Zeb Sink added 11, and Michael Todd had 10.
Matthew Roberts had 13 points for the Bears.
“It was a huge conference opening win on the road,” Coach Adam Phillips said. “I’m so proud of our kids. I thought they played extremely hard.”
After falling behind to start the second half, SM battled back and took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter.
“The biggest thing was getting stops defensively,” Phillips said. “We hit big shots all night. When we needed a big time shot, we got it. When I called time out, the kids responded very well. We didn’t panic. I can’t say enough about the leadership of the seniors.”
“It was one of the biggest games of the season against a big rival,” Todd said. “We played our guts out. It was the biggest game so far.”
As for how the team responded after falling behind, Todd said, “We just came together and started playing as a team. We had let them have some easy baskets. We played better defense and drew some charges. I was really proud of the team.”
Pisgah started the second half with a 10-2 run, including eight by Roberts, to lead 33-26 with 6:13 to play in the third quarter.
The Mustangs cut the gap to 39-38 by the end of the period on Wike’s fast break layup with 21 seconds left.
Conner Seagraves’ three--pointer with 6:09 to play put SM ahead to stay, 44-43. It stated a 9-0 spurt, including four by Todd, for a 50-43 advantage at the 2:34 mark.
The largest lead was 54-44 after Todd’s two free throws with 28.8 seconds remaining.
The Bears ran off eight straight points to go up 12-6 on Trent Devlin’s three-pointer with 1:11 to play in the first quarter, which ended with the margin 13-8.
Roberts’ basket to open the second period made it 15-8.
SM scored the final seven points of the half to take a 24-23 edge on Frady’s layup with 43 seconds to play.
Frady hit six field goals, including a three-pointer. Sink connected on five field goals, including a trey. Todd made four field goals and two foul shots.
Seagraves and Mitch Wike both scored eight points, and Parker Flynn had four.
The Bears won the JV game 53-47. They trailed 13-8 after the first quarter and tied it 20-20 at halftime before moving ahead 36-34 entering the fourth period.
Chase Gribble scored 13 points, and Vaughn Ellis had 12.
“We played super hard,” Coach Tyler Mulligan said. “We went over there a little overconfident. We made a mistake by looking at Pisgah’s record. Our biggest mishap was we were four of 18 from the free throw line.”