The Hilltoppers got 16 points from Calvin Songster and 12 from Peyton Wingate and outlasted preseason favorite Dobyns-Bennett 57-53 in a Big Seven Conference game Tuesday at Science Hill.
It was the 15th straight win in the series for the Hilltoppers (2-0, 7-2), who have won 57 straight regular-season league games. And for the first time during the streak – since 1994, for that matter – the Science Hill students were able to chant “Just like football” in the closing seconds.
“The streak’s not something we talk about,” Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “I mean, honestly it’s about our kids being focused on going out there and trying to win conference games. That streak’s just something that’s evolved over time. That’s the pressure we feel – to go out there and win conference games.
“I was glad to see us execute and play hard. … D-B’s got a good team.”
John Fulkerson, a 6-foot-7 post, led the Indians with 16 points, five blocked shots and a crowd-pleasing steal and slam dunk that tied the score at 30 early in the third quarter.
The southpaw scored inside, whirled for baskets in transition and made an 18-footer off the dribble, and the Indians went to him on an inbounds play while trailing 53-51 out of a timeout with 31 seconds left. But Fulkerson drew a crowd and was stripped, and Science Hill’s Daniel Sweeney came up with the loose ball and made two free throws to give the Hilltoppers a 55-51 lead with 16.5 seconds left.
Two Kaden Wampler free throws made it 57-51 with 9.8 seconds to go, and D-B point guard Trey Kincaid’s driving lay-in with 3.6 seconds left concluded the scoring in anticlimactic fashion.
Wingate, a 6-foot-1 sophomore wing, made four of Science Hill’s six 3-pointers, and appeared to get the initial strip on the late inbounds pass to Fulkerson.
Wingate made three treys in the second half, including two during a 12-2 run in the third quarter that gave the ‘Toppers a 44-34 lead with some 2 1/2 minutes remaining.
Songster found him at the top of the key for the first trey in the spurt, and Hunter Hensley connected with him for a transition trey 2 1/2 minutes later.
Songster capped the run with a stumbling left-handed transition scoop after making a difficult catch on a full-court pass from Wingate, whose final trey came when Malik McGue found him curling around a screen for a 51-49 lead with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game.
“I just wish Peyton had as much confidence in his game as the coaching staff does,” Cutlip said. “Tonight he had the look in his eye and he stepped up and knocked down big shots. He does what we ask. He does the little things, and our team did a good job of finding him. We ran some out-of-bounds plays. We executed a lot of sets that got the looks we needed, and then kids like Peyton stepped up and made them.”
Science Hill had 18 assists and committed13 turnovers. Songster had four assists and no turnovers. Hilltopper point guards McGue (seven assists) and Hensley (four assists) limited turnovers to one apiece.
Science Hill got several baskets via diagonal lobs to back-cutters, and Wingate’s bounce pass led to a McGue lay-up on a back-cut during the 12-2 run in the third quarter.
“I thought our passes were outstanding,” Cutlip said. “They apply so much pressure. You have got to relieve that pressure. If you’re not careful they get you back on your heels and then they’ve got you.”
D-B answered Science Hill’s third-quarter run with an 11-0 spurt to take a 45-44 lead on Kraemer Scott’s trey with 7 1/2 minutes left in the game. There were six lead changes and a tie afterward.
“I thought we played extremely hard,” D-B coach Charlie Morgan said. “Science Hill did a better job of executing down the stretch. We went down by 10 and then came back and tied it up … but we come back on the defensive end and don’t do what we need to do in closing out on the shooters.”
Morgan also grimaced while lamenting many makeable shots that were missed by D-B: “I keep seeing those easy ones we missed right at the bucket.”
Cutlip was pleased that Science Hill kept the Indians off the offensive glass, an achievement that wasn’t lost on Morgan. Wampler led the Hilltoppers’ balanced rebounding with five.
“We didn’t give them easy looks and we were fortunate we missed some shots that they’re capable of making,” Cutlip said. “But when they missed I don’t remember very many second shots.”
Cutlip lauded the aggressive execution when Fulkerson caught the ball a few feet beyond the right block on the last-minute inbounds turnover with D-B trailing by two. A double team came quickly with collapsing help from the perimeter.
“We would’ve liked for him to have caught the ball a little bit deeper,” Morgan said.
Sweeney and fellow frontcourt player Ian Martin scored eight and six points, respectively.
Kincaid had nine points for D-B. Post Paul Gadson scored six of his eight in the second half for the Indians, whose talented junior combo guard, Makale Foreman, was held to three points.
Considering Foreman’s off night and the fact that talented 6-foot-4 senior Tyleke Love won’t be eligible until Jan. 6, Morgan appeared confident in saying “we’re gonna be alright.”
Science Hill visits Tennessee High on Friday. D-B hosts Sullivan South.