Scotty Hopson had a headline performance for the News Sentinel team, scoring 49 points in a 130-123 victory Monday in the Pilot Rocky Top League's opening night.
"I had to take over, it was getting close,'' said Hopson, who scored nine points over the final 2 1/2 minutes after Ray's ESG cut a 15-point deficit to two points. "C.J. (Watson) was telling me he was going to take it over, and I couldn't let that happen.''
Watson led Ray's with 31 points and countless assists, many of them to his former Tennessee teammate Jon Higgins. Higgins hit for 23 points while Ryan Westbrooks added 15 for Rays, Steven Pearl 14 and Kenny Hall 11.
"This was pretty good, and it was a really good turnout,'' said Watson, who plays for the NBA's Golden State Warriors but is back at UT to finish his degree. "I just have to play hard and try to avoid playing to the level of the competition.
"Once I get to know everyone on my team I'll be more effective, and when (Ron) Slay gets here we'll be better.''
Slay is expected to join the Ray's team on Wednesday night.
The News Sentinel (1-0) plays Choice Spine (0-1) at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Richardson Construction (1-0) and First Tennessee (1-0) play at 7:30 p.m. and Ray's (0-1) plays the HT Group in the 9 p.m. game.
Hopson took over late, but early on it was the Michael Blue show. Blue, who played for the Knoxville Thunderbolts and before that Bearden and Roane State, used his 40-inch vertical to slam down thunderous dunks en route to 20 points.
UT's Brian Williams scored 23 for the News Sentinel and Vols walk-on Skylar McBee added 20.
First Tennessee 121, Choice Spine 110: Tennessee's Bobby Maze scored 20 points and dished out eight assists to lead First Tennessee.
Former Vol Rashard Lee and UT-Chattanooga's Ricky Taylor had 22 for First Tennessee. Vols forward Emmanuel Negedu added 14.
Former UT post C.J. Black prevented Negedu from scoring more.
"He played at UT?'' Negedu said. "That is a very strong man.''
Cameron Tatum, last year's PRTL scoring champion, scored 36 points and had eight assists for Choice Spine.
"I wanted 10 assists,'' Tatum said. "If Chris Lofton comes out and we get him, I could get 20.''
Lofton tried out for the Memphis Grizzlies over the weekend and his future status remains unknown.
Richardson Construction 114, HT Group 108: Former league MVP Damon Johnson scored 25 points to lead Richardson while Josh Tabb scored 23 and Tyler Smith 22.
But Boo Jackson, who went to Eastern Michigan and played in the NBDL, appeared to be the most impressive player in the game, dominating the boards while scoring a game-high 29 points.