Senior Night at Science Hill on Tuesday was a reminder that time flies. So were the starts of the fourth quarters.
The Hilltoppers and Lady ‘Toppers, who are each ranked No. 2 in the state, coasted through continuous clocks in the fourth quarter while sweeping Sullivan Central and clinching Big Eight Conference titles outright.
Senior Reed Hayes piled up 18 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals in the boys’ 97-36 win. It was the fifth straight league title and 19th in 20 years for the Hilltoppers (13-0, 29-2). Dobyns-Bennett won it in 2008.
Junior point guard Tianna Tarter scored 25 points for the Lady ‘Toppers (13-0, 24-3), who outscored Central 45-5 in the opening 11 minutes of an 83-31 victory.
It was the 54th straight regular-season league win for the Hilltoppers, and the Lady ‘Toppers have now won 38 consecutive conference games during the regular season and three straight regular-season titles.
Ken Cutlip’s Hilltoppers made 13 of 29 3-pointers. Hayes had four treys, as did junior Calvin Songster, who matched Hayes’ 18 points.
Senior Will Adams (five assists, five steals) scored 12 of his 15 points while helping Science Hill build a 49-15 halftime lead, and finished with three 3-pointers.
C.J. Good scored nine of his 13 points in the first half, and fellow senior Marc Aples finished with five rebounds.
Cutlip couldn’t find enough praise for the way Aples, Good, Adams and Hayes have carried themselves on and off the court during their careers.
“A big night for our four seniors, Will, C.J., Marc and Reed,” Cutlip said. “Just a special night for them, to be able to recognize them before the game and then come out and play well. It’s also nice to be able to clinch the Big Eight Conference outright tonight. That was something else that was on our minds.
“I thought we did a really good job of … once again turning down good shots for great shots making the extra pass. … Did a really good job in our transition game, getting out and filling our lanes. We didn’t shoot the ball well early, but I thought we continued to play extremely hard.”
Science Hill scored 33 points in the second quarter and 31 in the third quarter.
Patrick Good finished with nine assists and seven points. Fellow freshman Ian Martin also had seven points, as did sophomore Malik McGue, who also had a crisp corner-to-corner assist that freed Patrick Good for a 3-pointer.
The Lady Hilltoppers’ seniors are Enjelica Reid (15 points), Emanda Reid, Morgan Knack (11 points), Shy Copney and Shae Smith, who scored all nine of her points in the first quarter. Smith didn’t know how she would respond on the court to the emotions she felt before the game.
“It’s really sad,” said Smith, who also had an emphatic blocked shot. “It’s been a wonderful experience. Tonight really reminded us of back in eighth grade – all of us playing together.”
Smith and her Liberty Bell teammates accomplished all it could in eighth grade, winning the East Tennessee Sectional championship in Pigeon Forge.
“I can remember going in their locker room after they won that down in Pigeon Forge,” Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell said, “and telling them, ‘The next time you take a picture like this … it needs to be in Murfreesboro.’ Well, four years later, we’ve been to Murfreesboro twice and hopefully make another trip this year and finish it the right way.”
Knack made all three of her 3-pointers while helping Science Hill build a 55-14 halftime lead. There was no hesitancy from a team that had been criticized for being overzealous in a 104-10 defeat of David Crockett on Friday.
“Tonight’s a hard night anyway, because of the emotions of Senior Night,” Barnwell said. “But I thought our seniors did a great job of getting off to a really good start. They played with a lot of emotion and a lot of intensity like we did the other night. And then as we started rotating kids in, they all just kept going, even through the second quarter.
“I thought it was a good continuation of Friday night of just playing hard, whether we were pressing or playing in the halfcourt. All we’ve been trying to get across to our kids in continually playing hard the entire amount of time you’re on the floor.”
Emanda Reid scored seven points. Gabby Lyon had six points, four steals (unofficially) and two blocked shots.
Having another home game remaining gave Senior Night somewhat of a different feel.
“When they called out my name, I did get a little emotional,” Smith said. “But I know it’s not the end of the season yet, and we’ve still got games to go.”
The Lady ‘Toppers have picked up the pace since falling behind 17-1 in a 65-57 victory at Tennessee High on Jan. 18.
“We noticed if we wanted to get back to where we were last year we needed to pick it up,” Smith said. “And I’ve noticed that our team is doing that.”
Heather Norris, a 5-foot-3 junior guard, scored 15 of her 17 points from 3-point range for Sullivan Central (2-10, 5-21). One trey came from some 28 feet.
Cody Vineyard led the Cougars (1-11, 4-24) with six points.
Sullivan Central hosts Volunteer on Thursday.