Volunteer played the first half like it was the fourth quarter, using four of its five timeouts and getting in deep foul trouble.
And for 12 minutes, it looked like a pretty good strategy.
However, Science Hill had two 14-point runs in an otherwise sluggish first half and eventually earned a 69-37 victory in the District 1-AAA basketball quarterfinals Wednesday night at Snyder Gym in Gray.
Science Hill won its 15th straight game, improving to 32-2 and earning a regional tournament berth.
In the opener, Sullivan South kept its season alive by pulling away from Tennessee High for a 52-42 win. The Rebels (14-14) will meet the Hilltoppers (32-2) in Saturday's second semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
In today's quarterfinal action, David Crockett battles Daniel Boone at 6 p.m. and Dobyns-Bennett takes on Sullivan Central at 7:30.
Science Hill really struggled to find an offensive groove early in the game. The Hilltoppers were missing free throws — including three by freshman Patrick Good to triple his season total — and the only time they looked smooth was when they stole the ball and scored in transition.
“I was extremely proud of the defensive effort,” said Science Hill head coach Ken Cutlip. “That's what I put the emphasis on the entire first half.
“As for the free throws, it was very uncharacteristic for a team that has shot them so well during the season. Patrick just followed suit with the upperclassmen and everybody else.
“But I tried to avoid putting any more pressure on the offense to make shots in the first half. Honestly if we didn't defend as well as we did, and we're shooting that poorly, we're really in a tight game.”
Fortunately, the Hilltoppers were in a stealing mood — especially Good, who totaled seven of Science Hill's 14 first-half thefts.
“I was just trying to stay close to my man,” said Good. “When they made the extra pass, I was keeping my head up.”
Good finished with a nice stat line of 10 points, nine steals, five rebounds and four assists.
“I was really proud of Patrick Good and Malik McGue,” said Cutlip. “They did a great job of pushing the ball, moving the ball and applying solid defensive pressure without getting frustrated about the way things were going offensively.”
Volunteer scored first before the Hilltoppers slapped the Falcons with a 14-0 run. But it was just 18-7 halfway through the second quarter, an uncharacteristic score for a team averaging 81.4 points per game during its winning streak.
However, the Hilltoppers finally found a groove and their second 14-0 run made it 32-7 with just 26 seconds left before halftime.
The pace picked up considerably in the third quarter, and Science Hill slowly edged further away. The Hilltoppers had spurts of six and seven points and led 59-27 entering the fourth quarter.
C.J. Good led the Hilltoppers with 17 points. Reed Hayes added 11 points with five rebounds and four steals.
Will Adams didn't score in the first half, but made amends with all 10 of his points in the third quarter. Marc Aples also finished with 10 points.
Volunteer, which finished at 5-22, got nine points from David McFarland.
Sullivan South 52
Tennessee High 42
It was a fairly ugly game from start to finish, and the Rebels were less ugly.
Christian Comsa dominated in the paint, racking up 15 points and 14 rebounds.
South trailed 19-16 after a rugby-like first half, but the Rebels found a groove in the third quarter. They opened with a 6-0 run and outscored Tennessee High 13-4 in the period.
Eventually the Rebels opened up a 40-27 advantage before the Vikings finally knocked down a few jumpers to close within 45-40 with 1:08 remaining. South sealed the win from the free throw line, making 5 of 6 down the stretch.
Ryan Headrick added 14 points for the Rebels.
Tennessee High, which finished its season at 19-11, got 13 points and 10 rebounds from Adam Mitchell. Chase Branscomb totaled 14 points.