After clinching at least a share of a Smoky Mountain Conference championship, the Hayesville Yellow Jackets hit the road Monday, Feb. 10 on a mission to ensure the title belonged solely to them. The Jackets accomplished that goal with a 63-54 win over Andrews in front of packed stands. Hayesville finished out their regular season Tuesday, Feb. 11 at home against Cherokee. Unfortunately the Jackets were unable to finish the season undefeated in the conference as the Braves bested the champs 66-58.
In order for Andrews to stay in the hunt for a share of a SMC championship, the Wildcats had to defeat Hayesville. The atmosphere was electric as the official tossed the ball for the opening tip. The Jackets settled in quickly and managed to out score Andrews 11-8 in the first quarter to establish an early lead. Momentum switched ends of the court in the second quarter as the home-standing Wildcats went on a scoring run. Andrews kept the numbers turning on the scoreboard with 18 points. The Jackets didn’t have a bad quarter and their 15 points knotted things up at 26-26 halfway through the game.
The third quarter proved to be the difference in the game. Hayesville came out of the locker room ready to control both ends of the floor. On offense, the Jackets’ run and gun style of play seemed to tire the Wildcats and Hayesville netted 18 points in the quarter. As far as defense, the Yellow Jackets did a great job of limiting shots, holding Andrews to 7 points to build a 44-33 lead going into the fourth.
Just when it looked like the game was well in hand, the Wildcats came roaring back. Andrews saved their biggest offensive charge for the final quarter. After being all but shut down in the third, the Wildcats lit the fuse for an offensive explosion in the fourth which led to a game-high 21 points. While that did give the home team the advantage for the quarter, Hayesvilles’ 19 points in the stanza was more than enough to secure the 63-54 win and clinch their second consecutive SMC championship.
The next night, the Jackets had to follow that physically and emotionally draining game with another supercharged battle. Cherokee came into The Hive looking to claim second place in the SMC and give Hayesville their only conference loss. It was obvious Monday’s game had taken a lot out of the Jackets and Cherokees’ talent took advantage. The Braves found success in the lane and at the free throw line. Hayesville held a 2-point lead at the half but Cherokee took control in the second half to get the 66-58 win.
The Jackets end the regular season with a 21-3 overall record and 11-1 in the SMC. Hayesville sits at No.16 in the state rankings as they await and prepare for the conference tournament.
Bracket information had not been released at press time.
LEADERS AT ANDREWS
Jake McTaggart: 31 points.
Blake McClure: 10 points.
Kolbe Ashe: 11 points.
Hayden McClure: 6 points.