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Late push vaults hot FHS
Led by Onusic, Admirals sweep Bearden to take firm control of District 4-AAA race

Zach Onusic was a tall figure in white standing out among the madness of Farragut High School’s frenzied student section flooding mid-court in Lynn E. Sexton Gymnasium Friday night.

It was all about celebrating the Admirals’ 62-55 win against archrival Bearden Jan. 19. Onusic, a 6-5 senior post who led the Admirals with 17 points, was centerstage as the students’ choice to hoist high as “No. 1” figures pointed, players were hugged from all angles and everyone under age 20 bounced on the balls of their feet and screamed with joy.

“It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had to this day, a great feeling,” said Onusic, whose Admirals stayed unbeaten and atop the District 4-AAA standings entering the week (9-0) while improving to 19-3 overall. Recent wins also included a 69-62 victory at Maryville Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Sweeping Bearden during the regular season for only the third time in Mark Blevins’ 13 seasons as Bulldog head coach, Farragut pulled away from a 55-55 tie in the final 82 seconds.

Entering the week, Bearden’s record stood at 17-6 overall, 7-2 in 4-AAA. The ’Dawgs won at Heritage 65-44 Jan. 16.

Looking to use his quickness and exploit the foul problems of Bearden’s 6-foot-7 post Demonte Simpson and standout forward Blake Jenkins, “That was the main key for me,” Onusic said. “I wanted the ball, my teammates knew that. Just try to get a W for my team, do what I could.”

Farragut’s Mason Burks, a starting senior wing, was hard on himself despite eight points, key defensive plays and a huge assist to break the 55-55 tie.

“I did a really bad job tonight getting the ball down to my posts, I feel really bad about that,” Burks said. That’s despite his lob pass in the post to Onusic for a lay-up that broke a 55-55 tie with 1:22 to play.

Both Burks and Onusic succeeded despite dealing with lower back injuries.

“We played defense as a team and we just really kicked it in gear on defense,” Burks said. “That’s where we got our offense from.”

Phil Kinney’s driving scoop shot, coming after Bearden missed the front end of a one-and-one, made it 59-55 Ads with 51 seconds to play.

In addition to a pair of critical rebounds in the final 70 seconds, senior wing Will Akers sank two free throws to make it 61-55 with 30.9 seconds remaining.

“We didn’t play well tonight, bad start, but I thought our bench responded well,” FHS head coach Donald Dodgen said, adding that in more than 30 years of coaching “nothing compares to the Farragut-Bearden rivalry.”

Akers finished with 12 points followed by Kinney and Kyle Binder with seven each. John Abraham scored five, followed by Esean Phillips and Riley Hunley with three each.

Farragut senior post Clay Wilhoite said the win “feels awesome, I can’t describe in words how I feel after this.”

Bearden was led by the sophomore trio of Simpson (17 points), guard Dustin Craig with 16 and Jenkins adding 13.

“Hats off to Farragut, they outplayed us both offensively and defensively down the stretch,” BHS head coach Mark Blevins said. “Coach Dodgen did a superb job tonight.

“Our kids played hard, probably as hard as they could, but the best team won tonight,” Blevins added. “I was really pleased with Blake’s play, I thought he played extremely hard. And Demonte and Dustin, all of our sophomores, played really, really well.”

Farragut had to shake off the effects of Bearden’s quick start, as the Bulldogs jumped ahead 10-4 midway into the first quarter and led 22-16 three minutes into the second before the Ads rallied.

Succeeding by attacking the basket and keeping the Farragut offense on its heels early, “We followed the gameplan,” Blevins said, “but I think we strayed away from it a little down the stretch. ... we’re just so young.”

A pair of Akers three-point baskets cut the BHS edge to 24-23, then a Kinney three-pointer gave Farragut its’ first lead, 26-24, with 47 seconds left in the half. The game was tied 26-26 at the break.

Another Kinney three-pointer put FHS up 30-26 early in the third, but a Jenkins steal-turned-dunked turned on the Bulldog student section big-time. The huge roar signified Bearden’s 38-37 lead at the 2:11 mark of the quarter.

But an Akers steal produced a Binder basket, then an Akers jumper and Binder three-pointer capped a 7-0 run for a 44-38 Ad lead with 35 seconds left in the frame.

Less than a minute apart midway into the fourth quarter, Jenkins picked up his fourth and fifth fouls — both on offense — the last one drawn by Burks’ defense. At that point FHS led 53-47 with 4:16 left.

But Bearden battled back to tie. A Marcus Webb three-point basket then an Andy Fennell steal-turned-lay-up and three-point play made it 53-53 with 2:25 to go.

In addition to late scoring from Fennell and Webb, BHS senior guard Hunt Rosson had two points.


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