Devin Schmidt is a name no Cougar wants to hear for a while.
The 6-foot-4 senior forward came to John R.W. Brown Gymnasium and stole a game that was sure to be Campbell County’s, as he scored seven of his game-high 28 points in the final minute.
With 55 seconds remaining in the game, the Cougars held a 53-47 advantage.
Schmidt used an offensive rebound for an old-fashioned three-point play with 45 seconds remaining to cut the lead to three, 53-50.
Three quick steals by Schmidt resulted in four fast break points for the senior, as the Sevier County Smoky Bears squeaked away with a 54-53 win.
“It’s pretty difficult when you feel like you have two of the better guards in the district bringing the ball up,” Campbell County head coach Matt Housley said. “It’s something so elementary as meeting a pass or not jumping, staying on two feet. It’s just really disappointing when we work on these things.”
It makes it even more disappointing as this is the second close game of the season the Cougars (0-2) have lost. Both losses have been by a combined four points.
In last Tuesday’s season opener in Lenoir City, Campbell County fell to the Panthers in double overtime, 58-55.
“We would be 2-0 right now if we could learn to manage the clock and maintain the ball,” senior Corey Poteet said. “Once we learn how to do that, we’ll become a better team. Everybody played so hard tonight, only to know that it was one play away.”
“It stings, and I don’t like it,” Gunner St. John added. “We’re that close. We’ve just got to step over the edge, and we’re winning.”
However, a technical in both games has proved to be a catalyst for the Cougars. Schmidt knocked down the front side of a two shot penalty with 1:24 left in the first half.
The technical shot proved the difference in the end.
“Both of them are Trey (Torres),” Housley said. “What he’s going to have to start realizing is that teams know that he gets physical. I don’t know if that guy intentionally tried to do anything to him, or it just happened like that. Either way, I don’t think that single handedly lost the game, but it definitely didn’t help us.”
One thing that did help the Cougars was Clay Gaylor.
The senior opened up the first half, scoring the only 10 points Campbell County could muster in the first quarter. Using two assists from Poteet, one from Andrew Evans, and one from Shaun Phillips, Gaylor knocked down two jump shots and two treys, one being a buzzer beater.
“It was big for Clay Gaylor to step up like he did tonight,” Poteet said of his fellow senior. “It was unreal.”
To Housley, however, it was what kept the Cougars in the game.
“If he wouldn’t have shown up early on, there would have been no chance at the end,” Housley said. “He’s somebody that’s going to start helping us more as we go on. He’s somebody that I think I can count on.”
Gaylor finished with a team-high 12 points, as Tucker Cain and Poteet both finished with seven each. Jordan Kindred, Brandon Lee, Torres and St. John all added six, while Evans added three.
St. John and Kindred both lead the Cougars with six rebounds, as St. John added the only block. Poteet added four assists as Torres added four steals.
For the Smoky Bears, Schmidt finished with 28 points, while sinking 10 field goals. He also completed eight-of-11 free throws. Jacob Whaley also added 18 in the effort.
“We’re getting better on defense,” Poteet said. “We’re picking up on things, and we learned from last year. From Lenoir City to now, we’ve made a huge step. Sevier County is a 10 times better team than Lenoir City was. We’re finally getting the hang of our offense.”