The Bulldogs had dropped five of their last six games, but came out with a renewed intensity Tuesday night and defeated Cumberland Gap 62-48.
Junior center Dennis Ramsey set the tone early on with a pair of blocked shots and scored six points as Claiborne raced out to an 8-2 lead.
The Panthers settled down and started climbing back in the game. Timmy Ayers put up six points in the first quarter and Claiborne’s lead was 15-8 going into the second.
Cumberland Gap got a boost from their bench as Ben Arnold, Mason Goad and John Douglas combined for eight points in the first half as they chipped away at the lead.
Ayers scored six more points in the second quarter and his basket with 1:25 to play in the half brought the Panthers to within 22-20.
David Sweet’s three made it 25-20 at the half.
Ramsey and Ayers traded baskets to start the second half, then Clark DeBusk took over.
The 6-3 junior got hot from the outside and scored all of the Bulldogs points during an 8-2 run that stretched the lead to 35-24 with 5:30 to go in the third.
Panther senior Cory Cheek’s layup on a pass from Ricky Earl stopped the run, but Sweet and Erik Stone both made baskets for Claiborne.
Ayers scored inside and Jeffrey Matlock hit two free throws to bring Cumberland Gap within nine, but the Bulldogs scored nine points in the final minute of the period — two baskets from DeBusk and three at the buzzer from Sweet. Claiborne led 46-30 going into the fourth quarter.
The Panthers had one last run left in them as forced five turnovers during a two minute span in the fourth quarter. Ayers scored four points and Trae Minton added a basket as they cut the deficit to 52-42 with 2:08 to play.
Ramsey rebounded a missed free throw and hit both ends of the bonus after getting fouled to push the lead back to 12 and the Bulldogs did well enough at the free throw line to go on to the 14-point win.
DeBusk finished with 24 points and Ramsey added 15 to pace Claiborne. Ayers was the only Panther to reach double figures as he put up a game-high 27 points.
Cumberland Gap (10-8, 3-3) hosts Pigeon Forge Friday while Claiborne (13-6, 3-5) visits Gatlinburg-Pittman.
— — —
Cumberland Gap 8 12 10 18 — 48
Claiborne 15 10 21 16 — 62
CUMBERLAND GAP (48): Timmy Ayers 26, Cory Cheek 4, Trae Minton 2, Jeffrey Matlock 2, Ricky Earl 0, Mason Goad 6, John Douglas 4, Ben Arnold 4.
CLAIBORNE (62): Clark DeBusk 24, Dennis Ramsey 15, David Sweet 8, Josh Taylor 5, Erik Stone 5, Lucas Gulley 5.