HARROGATE, Tenn. — Cumberland Gap came into Tuesday’s game playing some of their best basketball of the season. The Panthers had routed West Greene and upset Chuckey-Doak before losing to Grainger in their last three. But the offense just never got on track and the Panthers lost to Hancock County, 44-39, on homecoming night.
“We just had a lack of energy coming out and Mitch Cantwell over at Hancock County had his kids ready to play. My kids weren’t mentally or physically ready to play and I’ll take the blame for that,” Panther coach Ernie Clawson said. “We’ve got to learn a lesson from it and move on. This is a game that if we come out and did our job, did the little things right, we would have won. But when you score 39 points and shoot 25 percent from the floor you’re not going to beat too many teams.”
Branson Holt led the Indians with 15 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, and Peyton Miller added ten in the upset.
Cumberland Gap was led by Bryce Sutton’s 11 points while senior Gavin Burns finished with ten. Adam Jenkins finished with seven points and Hunter Bayless six.
Burns converted a three-point play and put in five points in the first quarter, Sutton scored four and Bayless added a basket as the Panthers led 11-10 after one.
In the second period, Cumberland Gap managed just baskets from Bayless and Jordan Bullins. Bullins’ basket had the Panthers within 18-15 with about 3:00 to go in the half, but they wouldn’t score again.
Hancock County did most of their damage in the first half on second and third chances. Holt scored seven points in the half and Miller had six as the Indians took a 22-15 lead into halftime.
“You have to give Hancock a lot of credit. They were very physical and wore us out on the glass,” Clawson said. “I think that was the difference in the game: their offensive rebounding really killed us in the first half.”
A Kwade Alder basket at the 5:45 mark of the third quarter gave the Indians their biggest lead at 24-16, but Cumberland Gap used their press to generate a 10-2 run to tie things up.
Sutton started the spurt with a basket off a nice pass from Burns, Jenkins hit a 3-pointer and Burns found Bayless cutting to the basket for a layup. After Miller scored for Hancock County, Sutton hit one free throw and Burns hit a floater in the lane to make it 26-26. Wilson Smyth’s basket gave the Indians a 28-26 lead after three quarters.
“We made a little run, had a little energy. But we never did come with a lot of energy and you can’t afford that in high school basketball,” Clawson added. “We’re not good enough to beat anybody taking a night off. If we don’t learn from it then Friday night we’re going to get drilled.”
Miller hit two free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound and Holt got behind the Panther press for a layup to push the lead to six and Cumberland Gap wouldn’t get closer than three the rest of the way.
A Burns 3-pointer made it 34-31 with 3:14 to go and a Zach Wilhoit steal led to a Jenkins layup at the 1:37 mark to make it 36-33.
Kolby Mullins converted a three-point play for the Indians and they hit three of four free throws down the stretch to hold on for the five-point win.
Cumberland Gap (9-13) will play at Claiborne on Friday before hosting Oneida on Saturday and Scott on Monday to close out the regular season.
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HANCOCK CO. (44) — Branson Holt 15, Peyton Miller 10, Kwade Alder 8, Wilson Smyth 6, Kolby Mullins 3, Cody Easterday 2.
CUMBERLAND GAP (39) — Bryce Sutton 11, Gavin Burns 10, Adam Jenkins 7, Hunter Bayless 6, Jordan Bullins 2, Austin Anderson 3, Preson England 0, Zach Wilhoit 0, Chase Mize 0, Trent Graves 0, Gage Barnett 0.