Science Hill went ice cold from the field and froze the clock 85 of the final 90 seconds, but freshman point guard Patrick Good was cool enough to make a free throw when Jefferson County had a meltdown.
Good got a steal with 90 seconds remaining and the score tied after missing a perimeter jumper at the other end of the court, and, after an 85-second stall, made the first of two free throw attempts with 5.9 seconds left to give the Hilltoppers a 50-49 victory in the Region 1-AAA semifinals Tuesday night at Snyder Gym in Gray.
Jefferson County, which inexplicably fouled Good intentionally 25-plus feet from the basket with 5.9 seconds to go and the score tied, wasn’t dead until 6-foot-7 Brice Cusick’s 18-foot fall-away rimmed off at the buzzer.
Science Hill (36-2) clinched a berth in Monday’s sectional round and will play in the regional championship Thursday at 7 p.m. against Sevier County (28-4) for the right to host either Oak Ridge or Maryville. Sevier County eliminated Dobyns-Bennett in Tuesday’s opener.
It looked like it might be an all-District 2-AAA final when Good missed a shot from the right corner with some 100 seconds remaining, but he immediately dashed into the frontcourt and stole the ball. Science Hill then went to a spread and was going to take the last shot before Jefferson County’s ill-advised foul with 5.9 seconds to go.
Good made the first foul shot and missed the second, giving Cusick a chance to deliver his second game-winner of the regional. Science Hill had a foul to give and fouled at mid-court with 2.1 seconds left. Cusick then did a good job coming away with an inbounds pass which was almost simultaneously caught by a Hilltopper, and Cusick spun away for an 18-foot turnaround fadeaway which hit seemingly every part of the rim before bouncing off.
“My heart skipped a beat,” Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said, adding that he had visions of Duke’s Christian Laettner beating Kentucky at the buzzer in the NCAA Tournament. “It hadn’t done that in a while.”
Good flashed a grateful smile.
“Thank God it didn’t go in,” he said while still feeling the relief of a bullet dodged.
Cusick’s buzzer-beating perimeter jumper lifted the Patriots to a 52-50 victory against Daniel Boone in a regional first-round game Saturday in Dandridge.
“I did have a flashback of Saturday, you know,” Jefferson County coach Chris Poore said. “And today is his birthday, so that would’ve been, certainly, a nice ending to a birthday.”
Science Hill shot 19 percent from 3-point range (4-21) and 33 percent from the field. The Hilltoppers had ample opportunity to crash the glass.
Reed Hayes got four of his team-high 12 rebounds on the offensive end and point guard Will Adams got six offensive rebounds.
“I challenged Will,” said Cutlip, who added Adams didn’t get any rebounds in a win against South-Doyle on Saturday.
Adams got to the foul line via an offensive rebound and made two free throws that put Science Hill ahead 48-47 with 2:35 left, but Cusick answered with a put-back 30 seconds later.
Hilltoppers senior guard C.J. Good, who matched Jeff County freshman point guard Noah Carter’s game-high 13 points, made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:44 left to tie the score at 49.
Cutlip said he wasn’t necessarily playing for the last shot the final 90 seconds, but the first obvious opening for a drive was essentially the only option.
“I liked us controlling our own destiny,” Cutlip said. “It’s a credit to our kids that we even had a chance to win as bad as we shot the basketball.”
C.J. Good had six of Science Hill’s 16 steals. Fellow senior Marc Aples had eight points and six rebounds.
Aples’ final field goal, an interior basket via an assist from C.J. Good, got Science Hill within 47-46 with 3:02 left after Kyle Briggs’ steal and lay-in had put the Patriots up 47-44 with 3:24 to go.
“I thought they really defended,” Cutlip said. “But I thought our kids played hard. We just didn’t shoot it.”
Adams matched Aples’ eight points. Calvin Songster (three assists) and Hayes scored seven points apiece.
Briggs and forward John Bryant scored nine points apiece for Jefferson County. All 13 of Carter’s points came in the second half, including a 12-foot transition pull-up which gave the Patriots (23-10) a 45-44 lead with 3:52 to play.
“Noah competes with anybody,” Poore said, “and to see a young kid in a game like this want the basketball and want the ball in his hands to make a play, it’s pretty special.”
Of course, Science Hill’s freshman point guard provided the special sequence that mattered most.
Sevier County 59
Sevier County, the top seed from District 2, was an underdog without leading scorer Devin Schmidt, who was arrested Saturday for domestic assault after scoring 30 points in a first-round win against Sullivan South.
Schmidt, who Sevier County coach Ken Wright said has been dismissed from the team, was averaging 33 points in the postseason, but Jacob Whaley (17 points) and Logan McCarter (16) combined to reel in that slack.
Whaley made four straight free throws after Andrel “A.J.” Anderson’s driving bank had cut D-B’s deficit to 54-52 with 27 seconds left. The second pair made it 58-52 with 12.9 second left to seal it.
Wright said he didn’t oversell his short-handed squad on being sold short beforehand, but they clearly came together to shine amid the controversy. Good spacing, shot selection and well-timed back-cuts showcased the teamwork.
“Sometimes things happen like that to teams, and kids rally around that and they wanna prove something,” D-B coach Charlie Morgan said.
Anderson, a 6-foot-4 wing, scored 29 points for the Indians. Senior 6-foot-7 center Connor Mitchell added 11, including an alley-oop transition dunk from Anderson that put D-B (21-9) ahead 42-41 with 6:06 left.
“A.J., I thought, had a really good game,” Morgan said. “Connor Mitchell battled hard in there. We just didn’t have the perimeter shooting tonight that we’ve had and needed tonight.”