Cookeville Finishes As 4A Runner-Up In 53-44 Loss To Independence

by Rusty Ellis

MURFREESBORO – The Cookeville Cavaliers saw their historic season come to an end on Saturday, as they fell to Independence 53-44 in the Class 4A State Championship.

“They’re a good team and they did some great things,” said CHS head coach Josh Heard. “We had some shortcomings in our defense that kind of let us down a little bit, and shots didn’t fall for us. I’m glad we came out and fought, we didn’t lay down.”

It was a struggle for both defenses to get stops early, but Jack Oakley and Bennett Reeves knocked down back-to-back threes to give the Cavaliers an early 12-6 lead. Colin Ayers’ jumper with 2:11 to go in the first quarter gave the Cavs a 17-14 lead, and Josh Heard’s layup closed the quarter with a 19-16 Cookeville lead.

Independence went on one of their bigger runs of the game in the second, as Dawysn Miller’s three and Tylan Lewis’ layup at the end of the frame sent the game into the halftime break with a 29-23 Indy lead.

Heard knocked down a three early in the third to cut the deficit down to just three early in the quarter, and Ayers’ layup at the 3:41 mark tied the game at 31-apiece.

Tied at 33 with the quarter winding down, Montgomery hit one of his biggest shots of the game with his three-pointer to give Indy a 36-33 lead to start the fourth quarter. From there, Cookeville just couldn’t hit enough shots to keep pace with the Eagles, as the Cavaliers fell 53-44 in the Class 4A State Championship.

“We just didn’t have our best defensive showing today,” Heard said. “That’s one of those deals where if the shots aren’t falling, we’ve got to get stops. Shooting (35%) from the field, that’s not indicative of what we’ve done, but their fight the entire game, I’m proud of them for that.”

It marks the end of the high school careers of Heard, Ayers, Reeves and Oakley, a group that leaves as one of the most accomplished in program history.

“We talked about leaving your legacy,” Heard said. “They fought through all the struggles all four years, dealing with the screaming and yelling from me…they came out and showed the true nature of a Cavaliers. I know it’s tough for them, but this is something that thousands and thousands of high school kids will never make it to, to play in a game like this. To get to this point and do what they’ve done all season, they’re winners in my book.”