Tennessee High’s Caleb Easterling hit a 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left to force overtime and the second-seeded Vikings went on to defeat Science Hill 52-51 in the semifinal nightcap.
Some 90 minutes earlier top-seeded Dobyns-Bennett’s Makale Foreman hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime, and the Indians beat David Crockett, 89-81, in the extra session.
The Vikings (24-6) and Indians (19-8) each secured home games for the first round of the regional and will meet in the district championship Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Science Hill (20-11) and the Pioneers (20-12), who will each travel in the first round of the regional, meet in the consolation game Tuesday at 6 p.m.
The bizarre succession of endgames left both losing coaches blaming themselves for not fouling in the closing seconds while nursing three-point cushions.
“Tonight, that’s all on me,” said Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip, who credited his players’ effort with giving them a chance to win despite 39-percent field goal shooting. “I did a poor job of coaching in that late-game situation.”
David Crockett coach John Good had said almost exactly the same thing earlier in the evening.
“Our kids did everything I asked them to do,” Good said. “They executed everything, and I let them down there at the end. That’s on me. … The kids didn’t lose the game; I did.”
Foreman, who scored 23 points for Dobyns-Bennett, anticipated Crockett fouling intentionally.
“I thought they were, but they didn’t,” Foreman said. “I came down and just passed it to John (Fulkerson) and John passed it back. And I just fired it, and luckily it went in.”
Foreman launched what appeared to be an NBA-range trey from beyond the top of the key.
“Foreman, he had guts to take the shot,” John Good said. “He wanted to take it and he nailed it. I mean, he’s a good player, and they step up and, you know, make plays when they need to make plays.”
Sophomore point guard Patrick Good made play after play while piling up 39 points for David Crockett. Six of his eight 3-pointers came after halftime. He created nearly all of his 11 field goals with the dribble. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Good had 41 points and 35 points in Crockett’s previous two losses to D-B this season.
“He’s hard to guard,” D-B coach Charlie Morgan said. “We talked about just trying to contain him. … He has the whole package. He makes them go. He’s a leader on the floor.”
Dustin Day scored 24 points for the Pioneers. He was 10 of 10 at the foul line, and he scored three baskets in a three-minute span of the third quarter, including an 11-foot turnaround in the lane that cut D-B’s lead to 47-41 with 2:50 left in the period.
playing with a ton of confidence and he’s really making plays," John Good said.
Patrick Good scored Crockett’s final eight points of the third quarter and D-B’s 49-41 lead had shrunk to 52-49 when he hit a long trey from the top of the key a couple of seconds before the third-period buzzer.
Ty’leke Love scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half before fouling out with 8.7 seconds left in regulation for the Indians. The athletic 6-foot-3 senior wing’s last basket – on a whirling drive – got D-B within 69-68 with 11 seconds left after two Good free throws had made it 69-66 with 29 seconds to go.
Day made two free throws to make it 71-68 with 8.7 seconds left, setting the stage for Foreman, who celebrated excessively after hitting the dramatic shot.
Morgan said D-B was fortunate not to be whistled for a technical foul, although the officials said it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of regulation, because it happened after time had expired. Apparently, any technical free throws would’ve been awarded to Crockett at the beginning of overtime.
Morgan said Foreman appeared to think he’d won the game instead of tying it.
Foreman, an athletic junior guard combo guard, scored 23 points. He said he was motivated by the postseason atmosphere and going against Patrick Good.
Paul Gadson, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound post, scored 13 points and 6-foot-7 John Fulkerson added 11.
In the nightcap, Tennessee High’s Easterling forced overtime with a long trey well beyond the arc on the left wing with 3.5 seconds left. Science Hill raced back up the court, but Malik McGue’s 12-foot floater was just short at the regulation buzzer.
“It was a crazy night of basketball; that’s all I can say,” Easterling said. “It just felt good leaving my hands. And I wasn’t sure about it until it went in, but it felt good.
“Anything can happen in games like this. You’ve just gotta hope for the best and play your hardest until the buzzer goes off.”
Calvin Songster (17 points) hit two free throws to give Science Hill a 46-43 lead with 12.4 seconds left in regulation, setting the stage for Easterling while giving many of the spectators a sense of déjà vu.
“He’s shooting about 45 percent (from 3-point range),” Tennessee High coach Roby Witcher said. “I’ve been begging him to shoot all year long. … A lot of times you have little luck on your side. We’ll take that right there.”
The end of overtime wasn’t as dramatic as the final score suggested. Adam Mitchell’s free throw gave Tennessee High a 52-48 lead with 11 seconds left. Science Hill’s Kaden Wampler made a foul shot with 1.9 seconds remaining and Daniel Sweeney tipped in a miss just prior to the final buzzer.
Mitchell, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, scored 10 of his 20 points in the first quarter for the Vikings. Chase Branscomb, a 6-foot-7 post, scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half. His 15-foot baseline jumper gave the Vikes a 50-46 lead with 2:42 remaining.
A Mitchell free throw stretched the advantage to 51-46 some 26 seconds later. Songster’s off-balance 13-foot fadeaway got Science Hill within three with 1:56 to play. The shot was all the more impressive when considering he was having his eyes checked and a busted nose tended to after a collision with 2:05 left in regulation.
“First off, our kids just played outstanding,” Cutlip said. “The effort is unbelievable right now. … I’m extremely proud of them. … That loss is on me.”
McGue and Sweeney scored eight points apiece.
Easterling made two treys and finished with 10 points.