Haynes, Heritage craft classic at Alcoa

Photo with no caption
By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

Michael Haynes hit one of those shots Tuesday they’ll be talking about for some time.

The Heritage High School junior buried a fall-away 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of Alcoa’s Brian Sommer with four seconds remaining, and the Mountaineers fought off the Tornadoes for a stirring, 63-61 win on their rival’s floor.

"I think our defensive intensity picked up, just the effort" said Mountaineer senior Michael Gresham, who went 4-for-4 from the free-throw in the final two minutes to set up Haynes’ big shot. "We had some hot guys step up and make big shots."
Heritage knocked down 10 3-pointers on the evening. A match-up zone defense then helped to carry the Mountaineers to a 22-15 lead after a quarter and a 46-36 bulge after three.

Haynes lit up the Tornadoes for a game-high 22 points, including a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Mountaineer scoring leader Dustin Brown would pump in 14 points before being forced to sit the game’s final three minutes with an injured ankle.

Charlie Hardwick gave the Mountaineers a big night inside of 15 points and seven rebounds, Gresham added eight points, five boards and four assists, 6-foot-5 junior Chase Simpson five rebounds and three blocks, as Heritage (10-15) roared into the fourth quarter with a 46-36 lead on the strength of Brown’s half-court heave at the third quarter horn.

Sparked by a Randall Cobb breakaway layup and a pair of Trey Sewell 3s, the Tornadoes (10-10) stormed back to lead 53-51 with three minutes left. Brown landed badly at the baseline and was lost for the game soon after.

"He’s our heart," first-year Heritage coach Tony Hardin said. "Our kids felt like they had to step up for him."

Their leader gone, the Mountaineers gathered themselves to go 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the closing minutes.

Hayes warmed for his big shot with a deep 3 with just over a minute to play.

Justin Ridenour’s trey with 28 seconds left looked as if it would pull Alcoa through, the senior’s head-of-the-circle bomb putting the Tornadoes out front by one. At the 10-second mark, Haynes collected the ball on the right wing, worked his way behind a couple of picks, only to find the 6-foot Sommer waiting just left of the key.

"Alcoa defended it awfully well," Hardin said.

Faking right and crossing over, Haynes got just enough separation to eye the rim.

"I was looking for a little more room at the top of the key," he said. "I didn’t think I was that deep. I let it go and it felt good."

The win over the Tornadoes was the second in succession for Hardin. The new Heritage coach directed Elizabethton to a substrate win over Alcoa three seasons ago.

While Tuesday’s win isn’t sending Heritage on to the state tournament, it’s big. The Mountaineers are a small but scrappy team gathering confidence as the District 4AAA tournament approaches in two weeks at Maryville.

"We’ve talked all year about playing our best basketball at this point in the season," Hardin said.

AP Boys Top 10
The following is The Associated Press Top 10 teams in each of Tennessee’s three Division I non-financial aid classifications
as selected by Tennessee AP-member sportswriters and broadcasters. Records in parenthesis.

Class AAA
1. Oakland (19-1)
2. Raleigh Egypt (18-3)
3. Whites Creek (21-2)
4. Clarksville (21-2)
5. Greeneville (25-2)
6. Antioch (24-3)
7. Memphis Central (16-3)
8. Bradley Central (20-4)
9. Science Hill (25-5)
10. Franklin (20-3)
Others receiving votes: Farragut, Riverdale.

Class AA
1. Liberty (23-3)
2. B.T. Washington (18-1)
3. Austin-East (23-4)
4. Knoxville Fulton (18-2)
5. Howard (19-2)
6. Pigeon Forge (23-2)
7. David Lipscomb (21-3)
8. South Side (18-4)
9. Unicoi County (19-6)
9. East Ridge (17-3)
Others receiving votes: Dyer County, White House.

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