ELIZABETHTON — Science Hill attacked Elizabethton from so many different directions, it would be understandable if the Cyclones couldn't pinpoint Peyton Wingate as the main assailant.
But the sophomore wing was at least guilty of assault with a three-point weapon.
Wingate packed the basket with a career-high 27 points, including five three balls, and led his team to a 79-63 victory over the Cyclones on Friday night at Treadway Gym.
Science Hill improved to 14-6 on the season, and avenged an early season loss to the Cyclones (12-5) at home.
Effort was at the top of Science Hill's list of superlatives. The Hilltoppers spent much of the first half creating loose balls out of what should have been Elizabethton rebounds, and hounded Cyclones' standouts Zeke Clark and Tyler Nichols throughout the game. The duo combined for 25 points, but all of them were hard earned and none of them were able to significantly sway the momentum toward the Cyclones.
“We really wanted to make (Clark) and (Nichols) work the entire game,” said Science Hill head coach Ken Cutlip, who watched as the duo combined for 48 points in the first meeting. “We put tremendous pressure on them for 32 minutes. It was by committee. Those are two outstanding players.”
And Wingate is showing signs of becoming that type of player for the Hilltoppers, giving them a much-needed scoring companion for Calvin Songster.
“He had an outstanding ballgame,” said Cutlip. “I think our kids did a great job finding him, and getting him shots where he was comfortable. And he was much more aggressive offensively.”
Wingate said it was a night where things came together nicely.
“I felt good coming into the game,” said Wingate. “So many times my teammates made great passes, and I was fortunate to knock some shots down. A lot of credit goes to them.
“This was an important game for us from a psychological standpoint. We knew we had to play hard.”
Wingate had plenty of help offensively. It was like the Hilltoppers were taking turns making big shots every time it seemed like Elizabethton was getting its footing.
Blake Begley was particularly active, finishing with 11 points and seven rebounds. Songster totaled 12 points while Daniel Sweeney scored six of his eight points in a critical stretch in the third quarter.
The Hilltoppers jumped ahead 14-6, but soon got into foul trouble — something that stayed with them throughout the game. At one point in the third quarter, Science Hill had been whistled for 21 fouls while Elizabethton had just five. Fortunately for the Hilltoppers, four of those five Elizabethton fouls were on Clark.
“This is a tough place to play,” said Wingate. “When you are in foul trouble, you have to adjust your defense, just keep a man in front of you, and make sure you don't give them free points.”
A critical stretch of the game came late in the first half. Science Hill led 32-22 with 2:39 to go, and didn't score the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Elizabethton missed two one-and-one opportunities, a wide open three, and a stick back. The Cyclones trailed 32-25 at the half.
“We were waiting on a break, and we didn't get one,” said Elizabethton head coach Lucas Honeycutt. “But going into halftime down seven, I thought was pretty good. We didn't have Zeke toward the end of the game, and that was tough.”
Elizabethton closed to 32-30 in the third quarter, but Science Hill responded with a 15-7 spurt to open up a 10-point lead. The Cyclones twice cut it to four points in the third quarter, but couldn't get any closer.
Nichols led the Cyclones with 14 points while Clark had 11 points and six rebounds. Conley Bowers was strong with 13 points while Bo Pless chipped in with 12.
“It's a great game to grow from,” said Honeycutt. “It was disappointing, but the kids played hard.”