MAYNARDVILLE, Tenn. —Some growing pains were expected for the Cumberland Gap Panthers after graduating all five starters and their top two players off the bench from last season. Monday night Union County provided another tough lesson as the Patriots jumped out to an early lead and then pulled away in the second half for a 75-52 win.
The Panthers played without usual starters Jordan Bullins and Hunter Bayless due to a knee injury and a stomach virus.
Brady Nease hit five 3-pointers on his way to 27 points to lead Union County and Drew Fugate added 19 points. The Patriots hit 11 three-pointers in the game. Cumberland Gap got 13 points from Gavin Burns, 12 from Tyler Parker and ten from Bryce Sutton.
“I didn’t think we had any energy, we came out flat,” Cumberland Gap coach Ernie Clawson said. “I knew how good (Union County) was. I had watched film on them and scouted them, they’re a very talented team. We came out and didn’t have a good defensive effort and you can’t get down to this team. We got down big early and never could get out of the hole.”
Union opened the game with an 11-4 run and a trey from Nease pushed the lead to 16-5 with a little over 3:00 left in the first quarter. Fugate scored nine points in the period and a 3 from Luke Shoffner pushed the Patriot lead to 24-13 by the end of the quarter.
The Patriots opened the second quarter with a pair of missed three-pointers as Cumberland got themselves back into the game. Austin Anderson hit one free throw and then a little jumper before Sutton hit both ends of the bonus to make it 24-18 with 5:56 remaining in the half. But Fugate and Nease both hit 3s to push the lead back out to twelve. Burns hit two from long range later in the period but Union County was able to maintain a 40-28 lead at halftime.
Cumberland Gap scored the first six points of the third quarter as a steal led to a Sutton basket and Burns ran down a bad pass by the Patriots and laid it in. Sutton’s reverse layup brought the Panthers within 40-34. Fugate stopped the run with a 3-pointer, but CGHS got a layup from Parker off a pretty behind-the-back pass from Burns. Adam Jenkins and Anderson also had baskets as the Union lead was just 46-40 at the 4:55 mark of the third quarter.
It was all Patriots from there as they scored 15 straight points to take control of the game. Landon Muncey scored inside on a putback and Fugate came away with a steal and a layup. A basket by Nathan Capps was followed by a 3 and then two free throws from Nease. Muncy scored inside to make it 61-40 and Nease hit another 3-pointer to give a Union a 64-42 lead after three quarters.
“We just don’t have the fire power right now to get out of a hole like that early,” Clawson said. “We have to show up every night and play at our best to stay in games and give ourselves a chance to win. That’s something this group has to learn, every night they have to play their ‘A’ game. If they don’t then we’re going to see results like this.”
A steal and a layup by Austin York gave Union County their biggest lead at 73-44 midway through the fourth quarter.
Chase Mize scored four points off the bench and the Panthers also got baskets from Gage Barnett and Trent Graves late as they cut the final margin to 23.
Cumberland Gap (2-5) returns to action in a tournament at Anderson County on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Union County (8-4) was scheduled to play at Washburn on Tuesday.
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CUMBERLAND GAP (52) — Gavin Burns 13, Tyler Parker 12, Bryce Sutton 10, Austin Anderson 5, Adam Jenkins 2, Chase Mize 4, Gage Barnett 2, Preston England 2, Trent Graves 2, Zach Wilhoit 0, Hyatt Brooks 0.
UNION COUNTY (75) — Brady Nease 27, Drew Fugate 19, Landon Muncey 10, Luke Shoffner 5, Jordan Oaks 3, Austin York 5, Nathan Capps 4, Austin Lay 2, Bryce Buckner 0, Alex Lay 0, Weston Griffey 0, Reece Edmonson 0, Cody Grace 0.