David Crockett was missing its seniors and Daniel Boone’s seniors weren’t missing.
Ryan Gaitor piled up 16 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and four assists for the Trailblazers, who made quick work of the Pioneers en route to a 68-32 victory in a District 1-AAA quarterfinal Thursday at Boone’s Snyder Gym in Gray.
Boone (20-8) secured a regional berth with the victory, and will host Dobyns-Bennett on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the opening district semifinal. Top-seeded Science Hill will play Sullivan South in Saturday’s nightcap.
Boone hadn’t played since outlasting Crockett for a hard-fought victory on Feb. 5 in Jonesborough. But post Isaac Mango and guard Josh Saults left the Pioneers after that game, ending their careers one game early for undisclosed reasons and leaving Crockett without any seniors.
Boone’s experience, and Crockett’s lack thereof, were evident early and often. Gaitor scored 12 points and handed out seven assists while helping the Trailblazers build a 45-10 halftime lead.
Fellow seniors Jordan Stout and Jacob Littleton also started hot. Stout made both of his 3-pointers in the opening four minutes and Littleton (7-of-9 shooting) scored 10 points in the first quarter and the remainder of his 14 before halftime.
Gaitor (8-of-12 shooting) played with efficiency and flare. He scored on whirling drives, coast-to-coast leaners and banked in a lob from another senior, Adam Edwards, after cutting along the baseline behind a zone defense.
A nine-day layoff didn’t slow the momentum of the ’Blazers, who’ve now won 15 of their last 18.
“We hadn’t played since last Tuesday against Crockett,” Boone coach Ryan Arnold said. “We practiced great, beat up on each other all this week and I think we’s just ready to see somebody else. Things got off to a good start for us and … kind of went downhill for them. …
“They (Littleton and Gaitor) are pretty tough on the break. In transition, I like to see Ryan or Jake either one with the ball, and the other one sprinting up the sideline, because I know we’ve got a good chance to score.”
Edwards scored 13 points for Boone. Freshman Ryan Keever made two treys and finished with eight points. Keever’s second 3-pointer — on an assist from Dylan Riddle — gave Boone a 63-17 lead with a minute left in the third quarter.
“This is a young bunch, but that’s no excuse,” Crockett coach Richard Tarlton said. “You’ve gotta come to play. I give Boone credit. They’ve got an experienced bunch and they came to play. And when they got us reeling, they kept their foot on the pedal and put us a way.
“This is one of the best games I’ve seen Boone play. It may have been that we played that bad, but I thought they played extremely well and extremely hard. Coach Arnold’s done a good job with them and got them ready for the tournament, and I wish them a lot of success.”
Crockett, which ended the season with a 9-20 record, was led by 6-foot-6 junior post Tyler Page’s nine points.
“Page plays as hard as anybody we’ve got,” Tarlton said. “He don’t quit on you and he keeps fighting and scratching. He’ll have to be a focal point for us in the future.”
Sullivan Central 41
Andrel “A.J.” Anderson scored 24 points to help the Indians (19-7) advance.
Anderson finished the third quarter with back-to-back baseline drives, the latter of which he finished with a difficult double-clutch reverse lay-up that gave D-B a 48-29 lead.
Central (5-26) got within 12 points twice in the fourth quarter, including when Josh Hayes’ two free throws made it 52-40 with 4:08 left. But Anderson helped answer when he assisted an interior basket by 6-foot-7 Connor Mitchell (13 points) with 3:35 left.
“I thought he (Anderson) had a phenomenal game tonight,” D-B coach Charlie Morgan said. “I was very close with his dad (Andrel). He played for me when I’s coaching over there at Science Hill. He was just a competitor, and I see that in A.J. from time to time. And he competed tonight.
“I thought he was the difference in the game — of course, along with Connor Mitchell rebounding and scoring inside as well.”
Point guard Mykale Foreman got half of his eight points thanks to 4-of-4 foul shooting.
Hayes led Central with nine points. Cody Vineyard and Chris Benton added eight and seven, respectively. Benton had a 3-pointer during a 7-0 Cougars run in the fourth quarter. Vineyard capped it with a basket to cut Central’s deficit to a dozen with 4 1/2 minutes left, but Mitchell immediately answered with a transition basketball.
“Central never quit,” said Morgan, who anticipates walking into beehive when D-B takes on Boone on Saturday. “Coming back in here Saturday night, that might be a barnburner. Boone has been playing well. … Ryan Gaitor’s a very good player.”
The girls semifinals are tonight. Second-seeded Tennessee High will play Volunteer at 6 p.m., and top-seeded Science Hill takes on Daniel Boone in the nightcap.
Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell missed practice on Thursday. His son, Eli, said Barnwell went to the hospital around 3:30 a.m. Thursday with chest pain and what turned out to be a high sugar level. He remained at the hospital some 15 hours.