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COUNTY TOURNAMENT: Tharptown leads way on opening night

The Tharptown Wildcats varsity girls and varsity boys both won on the opening night of the Franklin County Tournament. THS, the host school for this year, advanced from the quarterfinal round to the semifinals Tuesday night.

Because of attendance restrictions put in place to help stem the spread of COVID-19, players played in a mostly-empty gym all day and into the night.

“It was definitely different,” said Tharptown varsity boys coach Shannon Benford. “You never have really big crowds on the first day of the tournament, but it was very different. I think once the games get going, though, the kids just play and don’t worry so much about the crowd.”

In varsity girls action, Tharptown beat Belgreen 46-42. The Wildcats advanced to play the top-seeded Red Bay Tigers Tuesday night.

Tharptown built leads in the first and third quarter and held off a late rally by Belgreen in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats led 13-8 at the end of the first quarter, but Belgreen cut the lead to 20-16 at halftime. Tharptown built a 35-24 lead at then end of the third quarter. Belgreen rallied in the fourth quarter, outscoring Tharptown 18-11, but the Wildcast were able to hold off the Bulldogs.

Gracie Montgomery led Tharptown with 15 points on the night. She was followed by Sarah Mansell with 13 points and Autumn Montgomery with 10 points. Macy Petree added six points, and Kyndall Morgan chipped in two points for the Wildcats.

Noelle Willingham led Belgreen with 14 points. Others scoring for the Bulldogs were Madison Vandiver with eight points, Emma Dempsey with seven points, Dacota Green with seven points and Kaley Chandler with five points.

Tharptown dominated Vina in the varsity boys game, winning 89-34 to advance to the semifinals and play top-seeded Belgreen Tuesday night.

Tharptown was able to put the game away quickly, taking a 24-12 first quarter lead and extending the lead to 47-20 by halftime.

Winston Nolen led Tharptown with 31 points, including 21 points in the first half. Nolen was followed by Dylan Valdez with 16 points, Colton Simmons with 14 points and Edwin Vela with 13 points. Andy Lopez added five points, Luis Valdez had four points, Hunter Motes had four points, and Blake Daily added two points.

Nathan Byrd led Vina with 10 points. Haze Weather added seven points, and Nate Stidham added six points. Grayson Ridge, Brackin Pardue and Dawson Miller scored three points each. Conner Davidson added two points.

In the quarterfinals of the ninth-grade girls game, Red Bay beat Vina to advance to the semifinals Tuesday and play East Franklin. Phil Campbell beat Tharptown to advance to the semifinals and play Belgreen.

The final of the ninth-grade girls and boys and the B-varsity boys will be Friday, with the first game beginning at 4 p.m. The finals of the varsity girls and varsity boys will be Saturday beginning at 5 p.m.

Spectators must have a voucher to be able to enter the gym. A limited number of vouchers will be available at the gate; however, once the capacity limit has been reached, the doors will be closed to further spectators.