The HT Group ran like a well-oiled machine en route to its second consecutive Pilot Rocky Top League championship under coach Pat Walden.
"The key was getting guys that played well as a team and bought into the team concept,'' Walden said. "No one cared who scored; we just identified mismatches.''
Boo Jackson scored 30 points for the HT Group (5-2) in its 104-100 victory over the News Sentinel on Thursday night at Bearden High School.
The News Sentinel (5-2) trailed by as many as 15 points, and was down 90-79 with 4:52 left.
But former University of Tennessee standout JaJuan Smith, who finished with 33 points, caught fire from the perimeter, and a pair of Alex Oliver free throws tied the game at 92-92 with 2:04 left.
HT Group was too big and physical, though, with the 6-foot-8 Jackson and 6-9 Wayne Chism of UT dominating the boards throughout.
"That's the biggest team we faced, and with Boo, Wayne and Renaldo Woolridge, they're also quick enough on the perimeter,'' former UT standout Dane Bradshaw said. "We should have been pressing a lot earlier and made their bigs make more passes and guard decisions.''
The referees whistled a foul when Bradshaw went up with a 3-pointer with a second left, yet Bradshaw wasn't allowed to attempt the free throws.
"The ref said it was because we were down four,'' Bradshaw said. "I'm not saying we would have won, but what if you make the first two and then get a tip?'''
UT rising sophomore Scotty Hopson, who scored 24 points on 8-of-20 shooting, was not happy.
"It's very frustrating. I was really wanting to win this,'' said Hopson, who led the league in scoring throughout most of the season. "We lost the game on rebounds. They're a big team, and it was real tough on the boards.''
UT's Brian Williams had 18 points for The News Sentinel, but he was forced to leave the game during a crucial stretch after getting poked in the eye as the action grew more physical down the stretch.
Asheville's Jon Primm (16 points) and Fulton High School's Jalen Steele never wavered in the backcourt for HT Group.
Steele was particularly effective, scoring 22 points with UT walk-on Skylar McBee guarding him throughout the night.
"I would love to play in the SEC. Some teams are giving me a look,'' said Steele, who is giving serious consideration to an offer from mid-major power Dayton. "I may decide later this month, but if not I'll sign in November.
"This was fun, our team really jelled and figured out what it could do with shooters, drivers and mismatches inside with Wayne, Boo and Renaldo.''
Chism said he took a different, more serious approach to the league this season, and it made a difference.
"I've picked up a lot of stuff, and I wanted to use it and work on it,'' said Chism, who was more effective off the dribble than in the past. "I let people know this wasn't going to just be a guard league.
"Now I got to go out and win an SEC championship.''
Richardson Construction 115, Ray's ESG 104: Micah Williams of East Tennessee State erupted for 39 points as Richardson Construction (4-3) built an early lead and never faltered in the consolation game.
Former UT player Damon Johnson had 19 and John Mueller had 18 for Richardson, while UT's Tyler Smith scored only 10.
"I came into the game wanting to pass the ball around,'' Smith said. "If they kept track of my assists, I set the record.''
Did Smith think he got 20 assists?
"Probably 25,'' he said with a laugh.
Ryan Westbrooks starred for Ray's (3-4), which was playing without former UT players C.J. Watson and Ron Slay.
Westbrooks scored 31 while UT signee Kenny Hall added 29.