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Champs will way to 2nd straight 7-AA title

By CHRIS SIERS ~ sports@t-g.com
Posted 2/22/23

CHAPEL HILL — Good teams find ways to win, even when their backs are against the wall.For much of Tuesday night’s District 7-AA championship game against Grundy County, the Cascade …

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Champs will way to 2nd straight 7-AA title


CHAPEL HILL — Good teams find ways to win, even when their backs are against the wall.
For much of Tuesday night’s District 7-AA championship game against Grundy County, the Cascade Champions trailed the Yellow Jackets (19-9) until the Champions (25-5) made key plays at key moments in the game.
With a massive fourth-quarter, Cascade rallied past Grundy County to secure their second-straight district title, beating the Yellow Jackets 79-61.
“It’s tough to beat anybody three times in any season. Grundy County does a really good job with their stuff. They run a dribble drive and we struggled to guard it early on. They make shots. You have to give them a lot of credit—that’s what they needed to do. We went in at halftime and made a few adjustments and I felt like we did a much better job in the second half,” Champion coach Chris Lawson said.
Grundy County executed a near-perfect game plan against Cascade, complemented by a dribble-drive offense, along with a stellar first half shooting from the perimeter.
Led by co-MVP Sam Parson, the Yellow Jackets were able to effectively get to the line in the first half and Parson alone cashed in on 7-of-8 free throw attempts.
Of the 11 made field goals in the first half by Grundy County, six came from the perimeter, which allowed the Yellow Jackets to lead Cascade by as much as eight points in the first half.
But Cascade would not be denied.
Senior Lucas Clanton did a little bit of everything in the first half, including knocking down a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter and added 12 more in the second quarter, showcasing his ability to drive to the rim, as well as knock down a pull up jumper.
Still, Grundy County led 36-33 at the half, even with a 20-point effort by Clanton.
But at key moments in the second half, Cascade’s players answered the bell and came up with key plays to not just keep the Champs within one possession of the lead, but to also tie it several times in the third.
Thomas Gentry opened the third quarter and drilled a corner three-ball to tie the game at 36.
Parson answered and gave Grundy County a six-point lead after he was fouled on a basket and made the ensuing free throw, giving the Yellow Jackets a 42-36 lead with 5:26 left in the third.
But every time Grundy County was able to build what felt like a comfortable lead, Cascade answered.
Cascade found a bit of a mismatch off the block from Isaac McElroy, who gave the Champs a much-needed lift throughout the third.
He scored nine points in the period and allowed Cascade to close within a one-point margin by the end of the quarter.
Early in the fourth, it was Clanton again who got it done on both ends of the floor that allowed Cascade to take a slim lead.
After hitting a jumper with seven minutes to go, he took a charge to nullify a basket by Grundy.
Grundy’s Brendan Marsh hit a three-pointer 53 seconds later, which gave Grundy it’s final lead of the night at 57-56.
Cascade responded on a tear with a go-ahead basket by Gentry on a corner three-pointer.
After getting a stop, it was Tucker McGee who added to the Champs’ lead with another three.
While Parson was able to get back to the line and knock down both attempts of a one-and-one with 5:10 left, the momentum shifted entirely in the Champs’ favor as Gentry again connected on another corner three-ball, bumping the Champs’ lead to 65-59.
Grundy County managed just two more points in the game, while Cascade closed the game on a 15-2 run
“Thomas Gentry knocked down some big shots in a crucial time. Tucker McGee came in and played really good minutes and knocked down a big three in the corner, got a steal and took it to the rim and made a big play,” Lawson said.
Gentry finished with 19 points, including three monster three-pointers in the second half.
But it was Clanton’s driving force on offense that led all scorers with 31 points.
“Lucas Clanton was good the whole game and made shot after shot and kept us going. Every time they made a little run, we were able to keep it close enough to get it within striking distance, and then once we got ahead of them, we were able to extend it and hold on,” Lawson said.
Gentry and fellow senior Jackson Davis earned all-tournament honors for their efforts in the 7-AA tournament, while Clanton took home tournament MVP.
Gentry, Davis and Jayden Gulick also took home All-District honors, while Clanton split the seasosn’s MVP vote with Parson.
Lawson was also named the District 7-AA Coach of the Year.
Tuesday’s game was a testament that showcased Cascade’s versatility in finding ways to win with the game on the line.
“We haven’t had many games this year where we’ve trailed the majority of the game and then had to make some plays, especially in this type of environment, to get back in the game, and then maintain it and push that lead back out. I give a lot of credit to our guys. They’re gritty and made plays when they had to,” Lawson said.
Tuesday marked the third win by the Champions over the Yellow Jackets this season and thanks to an upset in the District 8-AA tournament, Cascade had a bit of luck bounce their way with Whites Creek upsetting Pearl Cohn in the tournament semifinals.
Grundy County now hosts Pearl Cohn in Saturday night’s Region 4-AA quarterfinals.
“That’s a big deal. I’ve preached and preached and preached to make a deep run in the postseason, you need a little bit of luck. We took care of what we can control. That puts us away from arguably one of the best teams in the state,” Lawson said.
By winning the District 7-AA tournament, the Champs will be back on their home court on Saturday night and will host fourth-place District 8-AA finisher, LEAD Academy.
“We’ll watch film. We’ll get a little bit of rest and then we’ll go to work to get ready for LEAD Academy. We’ll take it one game at a time. That’s the next one up. That’s the only one that matters. In an elimination game, we’ve got to be ready,” Lawson said.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

Grundy Co.      17  19  17    8 — 61
Cascade 15  18  19  27 — 79

Grundy Co.: Sam Parson 26, Brendan Marsh 13, Isaac Campbell 9, Jr. Crisp 7, Alex Parson 5, Jarod Huntley.
Cascade: Lucas Clanton 31, Thomas Gentry 19, Isaac McElroy 13, Jackson Davis 8, Jayden Gulick 4, Tucker McGee 4.
3-Point goals: Cascade (8): Clanton 3, Gentry 3, Gulick, McGee; Grundy Co. (8): Marsh 3, Campbell 2, Crisp, A. Parson, S. Parson.
Halftime score: Grundy Co. 36, Cascade 33.