Science Hill used an old formula to open up play in its new gym on Saturday afternoon.
Using the pressure defense for which they are famous, the Hilltoppers forced 30 Cherokee turnovers in a 75-62 victory over the Chiefs.
“It was a great job defensively and that was generating a lot of our offense,” Science Hill head coach Ken Cutlip said. “I thought we responded well after we struggled early against a quality opponent. We were able to get things going our way in the second half.”
Despite falling behind 7-0 in the opening minutes, the Hilltopppers were determined to make their home debut a success. After all, they didn’t want to disappoint the large crowd which came to see the boys’ first game on the new floor.
“I think this is a special place,” Cutlip said. “It was special at the Topper Palace, but it’s special with this new gym too. That was the first game ever played here by the boys’ program, so it was great to come out and be able to win.”
Later in the day, the Hilltoppers made it 2 for 2 on the home floor with a 93-55 victory over William Blount.
The setting provided a particularly rare opportunity for Science Hill senior Will Adams. He played in the Hilltoppers’ first football game at Kermit Tipton Stadium, a 49-13 win over Volunteer in 2010, and played a key role in the boys’ basketball team’s first win in the new gym.
“It’s exciting, a real blessing,” said Adams, who ended with 12 points and five assists. “I’m just glad I’ve been able to be a part of all of this. I feel very fortunate.”
The sentiment was shared by fellow senior C.J. Good, who ended up as the Hilltoppers’ leading scorer with 18 points.
“It’s crazy because of all the history in the old gym,” Good said. “But we get to make our own history here.”
The Hilltoppers struggled at times from the floor, hitting just 4 of 21 shots behind the 3-point line, but the pressure defense led by Adams, Good and fellow seniors Reed Hayes and Marc Aples pulled them through .
“We have to play big roles as seniors and be leaders on the court,” Adams said. “We just tried our best tonight and would d-up the best that we could. Overall, I thought we played pretty good defense.”
Aples had a good night on the offensive end as well with 16 points, while Calvin Songster added 10 points.
Forrest Looney was the go-to guy for the Chiefs with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Ty Ryans with 14 points and Tanner Trent with 10 were Cherokee’s other double-digit scorers.
Cherokee opened the game on the 7-0 run with all their points coming from Ryans. The Chiefs maintained their lead until a pair of Daniel Sweeney free throws with 3:46 remaining in the first half finally gave the Hilltoppers a 24-22 advantage.
Once out front, the ‘Toppers ended the half on an 11-3 run with Good’s 3-pointer right before the buzzer, giving them a 39-29 lead.
“I felt the game turned in the second quarter,” Cherokee head coach Jeremy Parrott said. “That’s where we lost that basketball game. We have to polish a lot of things and get better. I felt in this game, Science Hill was a little further along than we were and a little better than us today.”
The lead ranged from eight to 14 points in the third quarter as Science Hill ended the period with a 56-45 advantage.
The Chiefs pulled to within eight points early in the fourth quarter, but were never able to get any closer.
Besides the new setting, the game marked the home debut of much hyped freshman Patrick Good. Playing alongside his older brother, Good delivered the goods with six points and four assists.
“It’s pretty fun, pretty crazy,” C.J. Good said about playing on the varsity team with his little brother. “I know where he is and he knows where I am. We just have that chemistry together.”
Science Hill (girls) 70, Cherokee 30
Tianna Tarter ended with a game-high 25 points, including 3-of-5 shots behind the 3-point arc, and Gabby Lyon tallied 21 points and nine rebounds to lead the Lady ‘Toppers over the Lady Chiefs.
“We try to focus on getting the ball inside to Gabby, Shae (Smith) or whoever is in the post,” Science Hill head coach Darrell Barnwell said. “Then, you have a kid like Tianna when she wants to take over a game, she gets a lot of steals and easy baskets. You look up and she’s got 25. She’s that type of kid when she wants to look for her shots.”
With a 39-20 lead at the half, the Lady ‘Toppers really turned up the wick in the third quarter, pushing the lead out to 32 points. Despite missing starters Enjelica Reid and Shy Copney as well as key reserve Keisha Gregory with injuries, Science Hill stayed aggressive, even when the Lady Chiefs tried running a zone.
“I thought our kids came out today and got after them a little bit,” Barnwell said. “We turned up the intensity on the defensive end and it was good to see our kids on the floor, diving for loose balls.
“They have some good post players inside, but our kids were able to battle and knock down some easy shots. That’s what it’s all about for us, playing hard and playing intense.”
Pattie Taylor led Cherokee with nine points and four rebounds.