Demarco Moore, Sports Writer
Tullahoma 9 7 13 7 – 36
Lady Raiders 20 13 10 14 – 57
MANCHESTER, Tenn. — A season that began with four seniors ended with the same seniors on the court for the Coffee County Central High School girls basketball team Friday night.
Celebrating senior night inside a packed Joe Frank Patch Memorial Gym, the Lady Raiders (19-6 overall; 8-4 District 8-AAA) routed district rival Tullahoma 57-36, stretching their current winning streak to five games.
Seniors Holli Smithson, Bailey Morgan, Aerial Williams and Kyah Northcutt-Starr combined to score 33 points for the Lady Raiders, who jumped out to a 20-9 lead in the first quarter.
Smithson scored a team-high 17 points for Coffee County, while Morgan and Williams finished with nine and seven points respectively.
The Lady Raiders held Julia Duncan and the Lady Wildcats scoreless for the first 3:33 of the second quarter before ending the first half with a comfortable 17-point lead that would never drop below 14 the entire second half.
Duncan’s 28-point game was the only success Tullahoma had offensively.
When CHS coach Herb Horton subbed out his four seniors, they were met with a round of applause from the Coffee County home crowd.
“That’s the type of moment that gives you cold chills,” said Smithson, who scored eight points in the fourth quarter. “Definitely didn’t want to come off the court. This is the game you want to remember for the rest of your life.”
Red Raiders 62, Tullahoma 35
Everything about senior night was a celebration for the Coffee County Central boys’ basketball team, which pulled away from Tullahoma for a 62-35 win.
There was an electric crowd, pre-game music and starting lineup introductions that for the first time all season included Maurice McGee alongside fellow seniors Stephen Sullivan, Grant Sadler, Garrett Eldridge and brother Tyrese McGee.
The Red Raiders (21-7; 7-5) made sure they put on a show in their regular season finale.
Up 13-7 in the second quarter, Sadler tossed a long pass to a wide open De’Aaron Rozier, who took one step near the rim and leaped high for a one-handed dunk that brought the crowd inside Joe Frank Patch Memorial Gym to its feet.
“[De’Aaron and I] talked at practice,” explained Sadler, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. “I said ‘D, if I get the chance, I’m throwing you [an assist]. Bring the house down with it.’”
“As soon as he threw it up I said ‘it’s over with,’” Rozier said with a smile. “My heart skipped a beat when I did it and everybody jumped out of their seats. I loved it.”
That play shifted the energy and momentum for the Red Raiders, who finished the half with a 20-11 lead before outscoring Tullahoma 42-24 in the second half.
Eldridge finished with 21 points and 6 rebounds and Tyrese scored eight points, but perhaps the most impressive performance from Coffee County’s seniors was by Sullivan, who finished with a double-double that included 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“The night itself and the atmosphere, it’s a once in a lifetime experience,” said Sullivan, who also added four assists and a steal. “It was like a movie.”
(Figures after player’s last name denote field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted and total points.)
Lady Raiders (57)
Smithson 17, B. Morgan 9, Aer. Williams 7, All. Williams 6, A. Morgan 6, B. Woods 6, J. Vaughn 5, J. Garretson 1
Red Raiders (62)
Eldridge 5-8 5-6 21, T. McGee 3-4 2-4 8, G. Booth 1-3 0-1 2, G. Sadler 2-5 0-0 10, S. Sullivan 5-10 0-0 10, De. Rozier 3-6 0-0 6, Dar. Rozier 0-2 3-4 3, A. Mahaffey 1-1 0-0 2 Totals 20-39 10-15 62
3-Point Goals: 4-14 (G. Eldridge 2-4, G. Sadler 2-8, G. Riddle 0-1, G. Booth 0-1)
District 8-AAA Tournament
Both the Lady Raiders and Red Raiders are scheduled to open the district tournament on Friday, Feb. 17 at Franklin County High School in Winchester.
The third-seeded Lady Raiders await the winner of Tuesday’s Columbia-Tullahoma game. Tip-off on Friday is set for 4 p.m.
The fourth-seeded Red Raiders face Lincoln County immediately after the girls game.
Reach Demarco Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @iam__demo