Lions win one of three in Gatlinburg, fall in consolation finals

Published 10:39 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

By Shane Shackleford, Contributing Writer

When Pineville Mountain Lions coach Brad Levy was completing his 2023-2024 schedule for his squad, he did so with the intent to prepare his team for the rigors of postseason tournament play in the hopes of competing for championships.

Levy has done so, taking his Lions (5-4) across the southeast and finding tough opponents to compete with.

The Lions won one of three matchups over the week in the always prestigious Smoky Mountain Classic in Gatlinburg, falling to George Wythe (Va.) 84-69, defeating Lanier Christian (Ga.) 70-62, and falling to Morgan County 93-70 in the consolation championship.

In their tournament opener, the Lions overcame a shaky start to battle back against Wythe, the defending Virginia class A state runners-up to within three points with five minutes to go before falling to the Maroons. Guard Sawyer Thompson poured in 33 points for the Lions. Ashton Moser added 15. Forward Logunn Littles had 13. Reed Kirtner had 19 for George Wythe, the eventual tournament champion.

The second game was a seesaw affair before Pineville battled back from nine down in the fourth quarter to outscore the Lightning 25-8 to go on to victory. Guard Ashton Moser and Thompson scored 24 points each in the winning effort. Forward Tate Mandel had a game-high 25 for Lanier Christian, a Georgia private school power from the Atlanta area.

In the final, The Morgan County Cougars, a Class A favorite from the 16th Region, broke open a tight affair with the Lions, outscoring them 33-18 in the third quarter to win comfortably.

Thompson led the Lions with 23 points, Moser, guard Kaiden Robbins, and center Sam Caldwell added 12 points each. Morgan was led by Hoskins with 32 points and Griffith with 20.

The Lions will return home next week to the friendly confines of the Lions Den and play in their Chain Rock Classic. Their opening matchup is against Trimble County on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

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Pineville (69) — Sawyer Thompson 33, Ashton Moser 15, Logunn Littles 13, Sam Caldwell 8.

George Wythe (Va.) (84) — Rex Delph 7, Trey Raney 3, Shane Huff 18, Brayden Raney 12, Reed Kirtner 19, David Goode 12, Ty Campbell 8, Micah Braxton 5.

Pineville         2 24 23 10 — 69

George Wythe      6 26 10 22 — 84

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Pineville (70) — Sawyer Thompson 24, Ashton Moser 24, Kaiden Robbins 4, Zander Garrison 4,

Wyatt Caldwell 2, Logunn Littles 4, Preston Zachery 2, Sam Caldwell 8.

Lanier Christian (GA) (62) — Kade Hemley 4, Emmitt Tracy 15, Andrew Butasie 4, William Martin

3, Gavin Schwell-Strobal 11, Tate Mandel 25.

Pineville         5 18 12 25 — 70

Lanier Christian  5 12 27  8    62

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Pineville (70) — Sawyer Thompson 23, Ashton Moser 12, Kaiden Robbins 12, Zander Garrison 4,

Wyatt Caldwell 7, Sam Caldwell 12.

Morgan County (93) — Justice 8, Griffith 10, Hoskins 32, Adams 5, Spencer 8, Griffith 20, Gamble

7, Hampton 3.

Pineville        6 19 15 10 — 70

Morgan County     5 17 33 18 — 93