Beating Morristown West without Shy Copney and fellow starter Enjelica Reid was difficult at the beginning of the season for Science Hill, and winning with them in the Region 1-AAA semifinals was no piece of cake.
But Copney scored 10 of her game-high 16 points in the final 6:42, helping Science Hill pull away from Morristown West for a 54-38 victory Monday night at Snyder Gym in Gray.
The second-ranked Lady Hilltoppers (31-3) clinched a berth in Saturday’s sectional round, and will play Tennessee High for the right to host in the regional championship Wednesday at 7 p.m. Tennessee High defeated Cocke County in Monday’s opener.
Short-handed Science Hill defeated Morristown West by one point in the season opener, which was the first game at Science Hill’s new gym. The Lady ‘Toppers were limited again Monday. Sophomore combo guard Keisha Gregory missed her second straight game with an ankle sprain, post Shae Smith’s was still somewhat gimpy due to an ankle she sprained on Friday against Sevier County, and Copney and post Gabby Lyon sat much of the first half with foul trouble.
Lyon picked up her second foul with 6:22 left in the second quarter and Copney picked up her second 50 seconds later.
Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell elected to let Copney play with two fouls, and she picked up her third foul with 3:52 left in the half. But Copney looked fresh down the stretch, which was necessary after Abbe Craine’s two free throws capped an 8-2 run that got West within 31-30 with 7:01 left in the game.
Copney answered with a 3-pointer 30 seconds later. It was one of four treys for Copney, whose play of the game was a put-back on Lyon’s missed free throw. Copney went across the lane from the left block, got the rebound off the front iron, took a power dribble toward the right block and banked in a leaner which gave Science Hill a 42-35 lead with 3:05 remaining.
“All I was hearing in my mind was ‘rebound, rebound, rebound,’” Copney said. “And I got the rebound and I just saw the opening, so I just went up.”
Sitting with foul trouble might’ve helped keep Copney fresh for the endgame.
“She had to sit a long time in the second quarter with three fouls,” Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell said. “Gabby had two and Shy had two. So we had to roll the dice with one of them and leave one of them on the floor, and she got that third foul. … She had a little rest there, so it may have been good.”
Lyon made a steal which led to her two free throws that gave the Lady ‘Toppers a 44-35 lead with 2:24 left, and Copney’s 3-pointer from the right wing gave they a double-digit lead for good (47-35) with 2:10 to play.
The Science Hill fans finally breathed a sigh of relief after Copney’s final trey. It was a tense 2 1/2 quarters for the players, too.
“We weren’t really nervous, we were just mad at ourselves because we weren’t playing as hard as we could and we knew we’s missing shots that we could make,” Copney said.
Tarter finished with 15 points. Lyon and forward Enjelica Reid added 10 and nine points, respectively.
Guards Hailey Seals and Craine scored 11 points apiece for the Lady Trojans, who ended the season at 21-10.
“I thought our team got after it,” West coach Johnny Galyon said. “I don’t think they (Science Hill) played their best game. They’ve got some athletes.”
Science Hill with have to beat Tennessee High for a fourth straight time to win the regional.
Tennessee High 47
Cocke County 42
Tennessee High overcame 19-of-40 foul shooting and four turnovers in the final four minutes to clinch its second-ever sectional berth. Fifth-year coach Barry Wade also took the Lady Vikings to the sectional in his first season when Massachusetts guard Renee Montgomery was a senior.
Sheena Johnson (10 points) made her second 3-pointer of the third quarter with 41 seconds left to give Tennessee High a 38-27 lead through three periods.
But Cocke County opened the fourth quarter on 12-3 run which Hannah Miller capped with a pair of free throws that got the Lady Red within 41-39 with 3:53 remaining.
Chloe Neil gave the Lady Vikings (26-5) a 44-39 lead with 2:35 remaining on a 3-pointer from the right corner that Ashlee Mitchell assisted. It was one of six treys for Tennessee High. Kelsey Stoops made three en route to a game-high 14 points.
Mitchell scored 13 points despite 7-of-19 foul shooting.
“This is the second time in school history we’ve been to the sectional,” Tennessee High coach Barry Wade said. “The first time we went, we won it. … And we had to go on the road and win it. So we hope to play Wednesday and play well and get a chance to play at home, but if we don’t we’re gonna go on the road and try to win Saturday.”
Mika Wester, the daughter of former Cocke County player and coach Wade Wester, led the Lady Red (22-10) with 11 points.