MT. JULIET — The burgeoning Mt. Juliet-Green Hill rivalry may have blossomed Friday night.
With a large complement of students, cheerleaders and general public fans who had been barred from attending games until the start of last week, it was a record crowd for first-year Green Hill as the Golden Bears made their shortest-ever road trip.
While the crowd was much larger than the teams’ inaugural meeting exactly one month earlier at Mt. Juliet, the result was essentially the same as the Hawks overcame an early deficit to beat the Bears 58-41.
“Glad everybody got to experience it,” said Green Hill coach Troy Allen, who had been Mt. Juliet’s coach for 15 years before moving 10 minutes down the road. “It’s a special thing it’s going to be forever, I guess. I coached a lot of those (Mt. Juliet) kids for three years and I’m glad they got to be a part of it too.
“It was good for everybody. A bunch of best friends out there playing against each other. Trying to keep emotions under control, basically what we did the last two days.”
Mt. Juliet coach Jonathan Drake coached Mt. Juliet Middle for several years and spent the last few seasons on Allen’s Golden Bear staff.
“That was fun,” Drake said. “When we played them at out place, it was right after the COVID shutdown and there weren’t many people there. Me and Troy talked about how that game deserved to be a big deal, so that was fun tonight having the student sections. A pretty good little crowd for what the restrictions are.
“It was a fun atmosphere. It was a good time.”
Mt. Juliet scored the first five points and, after Green Hill closed to within 9-7, was up 16-9 going into the second quarter. But the Hawks used a 15-2 run to go up 24-18. A 3-pointer from the top of the key by Daniel Beard beat the halftime buzzer, bringing the Golden Bears within 27-24.
Another Beard triple, this time from the corner, brought the Bears even at 27-27. But a 15-2 Green Hill run opened a 42-29 lead early in the fourth quarter had the Hawks rocking and rolling to a 13-6 record and a District 9-AAA-best 12-2 mark.
“We got it going pretty good,” Allen said of the finish. “We were giving them a lot of trouble. They were struggling to score. Jason Burch played really good defense (in the post). Our two guards sort of set the tone defensively — Paxton (Davidson) and Mo (Ruttlen) — three guards, (senior) Zach Blair.
“And rebounding. They’re a really good rebounding team and we handled that pretty good.”
“We just go in spurts where we go cold and we struggle to score it and with a team like that you can’t go empty possessions four, five or six times down the floor; they’re too talented,” Drake said. “Davidson shot the ball great, Riggs (Abner) played great and Jason, only being a sophomore, that kid’s going to be a really really good player; he’s going to be special.”
Davidson dropped in five 3-pointers to lead Green Hill with 17 points. Burch and former Bear Abner each scored 16. Ruttlen finished with four, Blair a 3 and Blake Stacey two.
Beard also buried five triples for his 15 points while Josh Keck scored three first-quarter baskets and four fourth-period free throws for his 10. Kyle Taylor scored six while Osize Daniyan and Jacob Burge each finished with five as Mt. Juliet slipped to 9-16, 5-9.
Commanders turn back MJCA comeback
After blowing out Mt. Juliet Christian by 47 points nearly a month ago, a repeat appeared in store when Friendship Christian scored the first 12 points in Tuesday’s rematch at the Bay Family Sportsplex.
But the Saints stopped the slide and eventually cut the margin to seven points early in the fourth quarter before Friendship regrouped and pulled away to a 48-32 Senior Night win in front a big and boisterous crowd allowed back in the building.
“We jump out, we’re doing things well, we’re guarding,” Commander coach Travis Kring said after Friendship improved to 10-10 for the season and 8-7 in District 4-IIA. “We have to be a team that’s good enough to be able to play at a high level no matter what the score, no matter what the situation. We’ve got to be tough, we’ve got to be physical. We got to play with discipline. That’s going to cost us if we don’t do that more consistently.
“I love this group. They’re young. We can shoot it. But we got to be more disciplined and we got to do that on more consistent possessions. If we do that, we got a chance to do something really special in that district tournament.”
Friendship led 19-7 at the first-quarter break and 30-14 at halftime before Mt. Juliet Christian cut the margin to 37-27 going into the fourth. The Saints sliced the difference to 37-30 on a 3-pointer by Max Beaty before the Commanders cut off the comeback with an 11-2 finish.
“We let them in the game,” Kring said. “We got to be mentally tougher, too, because our body language wasn’t good. We got a little bit disappointed. They hit a couple of 3s where our heads were down. One play leads to the next play. I told them you got to be like a golfer. Forget about the last hole and move on to the next hole.
“I’m proud of them. Any win is a good win. Any district win, and these are tough.”
Max Duckwiler and Hayden Potts each poured in three 3-pointers to lead Friendship with 13 points apiece while Dillon Turner added eight, Colby Jones six, Cole Kring four free throws and Don Burruss and Casey Jones two each.
Mt. Juliet Christian coach Paul Christensen said he was determined for his 2-19, 0-16 Saints not to repeat last month’s performance.
“It’s not about what we did, it’s about the heart of the players,” said Christensen, MJCA’s coach and athletic director for more than two decades. “We didn’t come here for a moral victory. We had every intention of winning. We knew they beat us badly (71-24) the first time and we weren’t going to let that happen again. We just got incredible kids who won’t quit, won’t give up on the season or on each other.
“I’ve coached a long time and this is one of my favorite teams. It’s not one of my best teams from a basketball standpoint. It’s one of my best teams as far as young men go.”
Luke Nave knocked down two 3s to lead MJCA with 13 points while Beaty’s nine came on three triples. Jordan Willis finished with five points, Chase Smith three and Justin Matthews two.
In the first game since Gov. Bill Lee lifted restrictions banning cheerleaders, students and the general public from games, the fans came out seemingly eager to make up for lost time in Friendship’s home finale in the final week of the regular season.
“I think that impacted the game with the players, too,” Kring said. “It was huge. Great crowd, great atmosphere. Our kids were a little shell-shocked by it. Huge student section by MJCA. We had a good student section. It impacts.
“But it really makes you feel so good. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. We miss this. We miss this atmosphere. We miss this energy. Cheerleaders, fans, student sections. It made the experience really really great… I was really excited for our kids to experience it.”
“I think everyone’s hungry to get back to live basketball and excited to watch a game,” said Christensen, whose Saints have been relegated to the road all season due to tornado damage their gym sustained 11 months ago. “It’s a privilege now when it used to be something we took for granted, so everybody’s excited. We’ve had some huge crowds at DCA games. But I was thrilled to have people behind us tonight and our kids didn’t let them down. Yeah, we wanted to win and that’s why we came here tonight. But I’m still proud of the fact in a tough season with the odds against us, without a place to practice…you could call them excuses that you want to make. But these guys show character. They’re practicing at different locations and all of that and every night. It’s wearisome, but they’ve never let it be an excuse.”
Wilson Central rallies in fourth to spoil Gallatin’s Senior Night
GALLATIN — Four Wildcats scored in double figures Tuesday night as Wilson Central rallied in the fourth quarter to enjoy an on-court win for the first time in nearly a month, spoiling Gallatin’s Senior Night 55-51 at Jerry Vradenburg Gym.
Ethan Thomas scored 17 points, Adler Kerr 12, Hunter Scurlock 11 and Zack Markus 10 as Central snapped a five-game losing streak dating to a Jan. 12 COVID win over Hendersonville. The Wildcats’ last on-court win was Jan. 8 at Portland.
The Wildcats used a 19-12 fourth quarter to turn a 39-36 deficit into their ninth win of the season against 11 losses, 7-7 in District 9-AAA. Gallatin led 10-7 following the first quarter and 27-20 at halftime before the Green Wave fell to 11-8, 5-8.
Damion Fayne finished with four points and Dakota Boudoucies a free throw for Central.
Golden Bears beaten by Beech
MT. JULIET — Beech remained in the upper echelon of the district 9-AAA standings Tuesday night with a 51-42 triumph over Mt. Juliet.
The Buccaneers led 15-10 at the first-quarter break, 27-21 at halftime and 37-32 going into the fourth as they improved to 18-6 for the season and 11-3 in the district, a half-game behind first-place Green Hill.
Andrew Paige poured in 17 points, sinking 6 of 7 shots from inside the 3-point arc, while Kaleb Powell put in 12.
Osize Daniyan scored 16 points and Jacob Burge 13 for Mt. Juliet. Daniel Beard buried a pair of 3-pointers for his six while Josh Keck finished with five and Kyle Taylor two as the Golden Bears slipped to 9-15, 5-8.
Davidson, Burch provide outside-inside balance in Hawks victory
HENDERSONVILLE — Green Hill did its part to remain in the District 9-AAA lead Tuesday night with a 49-34 win over Hendersonville.
Paxton Davidson and Jason Burch provided outside-inside balance with 13 points apiece for the Hawks, including 2 3-pointers for Davidson.
Green Hill led 12-8 at the first-quarter break, 26-14 at halftime and 34-25 through three periods as the Hawks improved to 12-5 for the season and 11-2 in the district.
Mo Ruttlen managed nine points for Green Hill while Rigs Abner added five in the first quarter, Blake Stacey four in the first half and Zach Blair a fourth-quarter 3.
Ty Lannon tossed in 10 points, including a pair of 3s, for the Commandos, who fell to 4-12, 2-11.