Strong offense and stingy defense was the story for No. 2 state-ranked Sweetwater in the District 5-AA title game Tuesday night at Loudon High School.
Facing off against county rival Sequoyah for first place, the Wildcats took control in the second quarter and never looked back in a 58-21 win over the Chiefs that secured district supremacy for Sweetwater.
“It’s great,” Sweetwater coach Jeremy Henderson said. “I’m so happy for these kids. Just look at tonight’s game and you can see how unselfish this team is. (Sequoyah) looked to take away Billingsley and Oggs and face guard all night like they did against Loudon on Friday when they had success with that game plan, but we just talked and worked on being unselfish and creating for the other guys and we did a pretty good job dishing across the lane for layups. That just shows the character and unselfishness of these kids.”
The game was close right out of the gate. Kolbe Billingsley opened with a 3-pointer for Sweetwater but Sequoyah’s Trevor Stakely answered with a layup. Bryce Johnson replied with a layup on the other end and Billingsley and Dominique Oggs added jumpers to give Sweetwater a 10-4 lead, but a run by Sequoyah was coming. Stakely, Cade Self, and Gavin McKee each netted a basket to vault the Chiefs back into contention and tie the game at 10. Aaron Littleton added a layup for Sweetwater late to break the tie, but the game was close at 12-10 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Sweetwater used red-hot defense to pull away. The Wildcats held Sequoyah without a point in the second quarter while scoring away on the other end. Oggs got the ball rolling with a layup and Austin Long added a 3-pointer to boost Sweetwater. Littleton, Oggs, and Matthew Kile each poured in a layup to end the quarter on an 11-0 run.
At the halftime break, the Wildcats had come up with a commanding lead, 23-10.
“That’s what we’re all about,” Henderson said. “It starts on the defensive end, we preach that every day and the last thing I told these kids before they came out tonight was ‘your offense will follow your defense’.”
Kile added a layup out of the break and Oggs added a 3-point play to continue the Wildcats’ hot streak. Self answered with two free throws for Sequoyah and Stakely had a layup, but a Carson Hicks 3-pointer erased any momentum for the Chiefs. Joe Grant added a 3-point play for Sequoyah, but Littleton matched that feat on the other end for Sweetwater to maintain the lead. At the end of the third quarter, Sweetwater still held a 37-18 advantage.
The Sweetwater defense showed up again in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats again held the Chiefs scoreless, save for a Seth Moser 3-pointer with time winding down.
The Chiefs’ defense, unfortunately for them, was not as dominating as the Sweetwater stop squad. Long and Billingsley got layups to start the fourth before Long went off and reeled off three straight layups to boost the Wildcats further ahead.
“Austin’s been big all year,” Henderson said. “Everybody knows the three seniors, but we need guys playing roles. We talked about roles yesterday. We went around the room and asked ‘what is your role?’. Austin has played his role all year. His job for me this season was not to go out and score a lot of points- his role has been to be a lock down defender, take charges. Guys like Austin Long and Bryce Johnson, you can tell they buy in. They play their roles to the fullest and that’s why this team has had the success it’s had so far.”
Jayce Upton added a 3-pointer and Oggs, Upton, and Conner Pippen were perfect from the free throw stripe to grow the lead to 56-18. Moser got the Chiefs’ first basket of the fourth quarter on a trey, but it was too little, too late for the team from Sequoyah as Sweetwater cruised to the district crown.
Long and Oggs led Sweetwater with 11 each and Billingsley added 10. Trevor Stakely led the Chiefs with 6.
Both teams will advance to host a region game Saturday. Sweetwater will host East Ridge while the Chiefs will host Howard.