With Science Hill leading 71-35 and three minutes remaining in what was ultimately a 73-44 first-round Region 1-AAA home win against Seymour on Friday, senior point guard Tianna Tarter was whistled for two technical fouls after a personal foul call against her.
Consequently, second-ranked Science Hill (31-0) will have to face dangerous Morristown West (27-3) in a do-or-die game Monday at Jefferson County without Tarter. Tarter must also sit out the following game, although Monday’s regional semifinal is the game that would secure a sectional berth.
Tarter bounced the ball hard on the floor after the whistle and received a technical. Surprised, she responded with “What?” to get receive another technical.
“I let my team down and I’ll never do it again,” Tarter said via text. “I lost control about the call.”
The Science Hill partisans and some of those unaffiliated didn’t think Tarter was the one needing to apologize. Tarter has often bounced the ball the same way during her career.
“I really don’t think there was any ill intent or anything negative towards the referee; I really don’t,” Science Hill coach Keith Turner said. “It wasn’t yelling and all that stuff. And then the second one was ‘What?’
“It doesn’t do you no good to appeal. … But it’s sad that in a game of this magnitude that that happens. Players have consequences. Coaches have consequences. They (officials) don’t have any.”
Tarter, who had what appeared to be an impressed Tennessee Tech coach Jim Davis in attendance to see her game-high 18 points, sat the majority of the first half thanks to picking up her second foul with 4:25 left in the first quarter and her third foul with 6:30 left in the second quarter. Turner said he wasn’t blindsided by the “touch” fouls from the Knoxville-area crew.
“The girls were told that’s how it would be called,” Turner said, “because that association calls that way. We played in Knoxville earlier in the year at Farragut and that’s what they do. It wasn’t like they weren’t warned.”
Science Hill led 39-31 at the half thanks, in part, to senior post Gabby Lyon scoring 11 of her 15 points before she picked up her second personal foul with 4:45 left in the first half.
“I was very proud of Gabby,” Turner said. “Gabby really was very active. She stepped it up and played well.”
Science Hill outscored the Lady Eagles (16-14) 23-3 in the third quarter. Tarter opened it with a 3-pointer from the right corner on an assist from Keisha Gregory, who then made back-to-back treys on assists from Grace Herrin to stretch the lead to 48-33 with 3:54 left in the period. Lyon’s two-dribble, 8-foot turnaround bank was followed by two straight transition baskets from Tarter and the rout was on with four minutes left in the third.
Turner said the ragged, foul-marred first half was part of why he still had some starters in while leading by 36 points with three minutes left.
“We didn’t feel good about the first half even though we were ahead,” he said, “and you know, that’s why we let them play a little longer. And we had subs up there getting them all out. I mean, we’d just said, ‘Let’s get ‘em out.’”
Gregory, a junior combo guard who’ll handle the point guard duties Monday with Abbey True, scored 12 points, including three 3-pointers. True (eight points) and Baylee Head (six points) each made two treys. Miracle Aples, a 6-foot-1 reserve post, scored eight points.
“They’ve got all the pieces,” Seymour coach Brandi Stallings said. “They’ve got one of the best point guards that I’ve ever seen. They’ve got a big inside presence in Lyon. They’ve got shooters to go around ‘em. So I mean, it’s pick your poison; who you gonna stop?
“And they play together. They’re not selfish. They’ve got some length and athleticism, too. So I mean, it’s a tough matchup for anybody.”
Of course, the Lady ‘Toppers won’t have the point guard she mentioned for the rest of the regional.
“I hate to see that in any situation for anybody,” Stallings said. “It’s unfortunate. But I think they can probably withstand a game (without her).”
Science Hill beat Morristown West 55-37 in the season opener. The top-seeded Lady Trojans were upset by Jefferson County in the district tournament championship after sweeping the Lady Patriots during the regular season.
“We’ve got good enough players that can step it up,” Turner said. “I mean, it may be a little bit more difficult, but we still feel confident we can do what we need to do. And the critical one is Monday. You know, you take care of Monday, and I have no doubt we can win at home or on the road (in the sectional).”
“Yeah, I’m out for two games,” she said, “but my team is still gonna bring the heat no matter what.”
Lexi Justus led Seymour with 16 points.