(Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Playing against Science Hill gets old quickly for area opponents, and that was the case for visiting Volunteer on Senior Night.
Senior point guard Tianna Tarter scored 24 points, junior wing Keisha Gregory added 20 and Science Hill finished off its fourth straight Big Seven Conference title with a 70-27 win against the second-place Lady Falcons.
It was the 50th straight regular-season victory in the league for Science Hill, which concluded its third straight unbeaten season in the conference.
Senior post Gabby Lyon also scored in double figures. Science Hill is 121-5 since Lyon began playing varsity midway through her freshman season. The Lady ‘Toppers are 134-9 since Tarter arrived.
“It’s obvious when you’ve got a group of seniors that have won 134 ballgames and nine losses in their careers, I mean, that’s an unbelievable record,” Science Hill first-year coach Keith Turner said. “That speaks volumes. Plus, one final four, two state championship games, four straight conference championships and (50) straight conference wins.
“But the thing about it, they don’t say anything about it. They’ve got bigger goals ahead. … They’ve got unfinished business.”
Indeed, while teams are often distracted or flat while dealing with the emotion of family at Senior Night, second-ranked Science Hill was crisp. It shot well — Gregory made five of Science Hill’s 11 3-pointers and Tarter added four — and generated turnovers in bunches at times.
Tarter the setting was “very emotional” but wasn’t overwhelmed by her team’s performance.
“I really think we’re still a step too slow, honestly,” she said. “I think we can be sharper.”
That must be a disturbing thought for coach Jerry Myers, whose Lady Falcons entered the game with a 7-2 league record and 23-6 overall.
“They shot the ball well, and when you shoot the ball well from the 3-point line you’re gonna win,” Myers said. “And they did play well, too. That’s the best I’ve seen them play. … They are very talented.”
Tarter knocked down back-to-back treys to open the second half, stretching the lead to 44-14. She had a steal and lay-in and another transition basket to make it 50-16 with 3:02 left in the period.
“I’ve just coached for six years here in Tennessee and she’s the best I’ve seen,” said the veteran Myers. “She is an excellent player. I mean, she could play in the SEC or the ACC. She could play for anybody. And what impresses me about her is she sees the floor so well and she’s so unselfish.”
Gregory opened the second quarter with two straight treys on assists from enior guard Grace Herrin.
“We’ve needed that scoring from her,” Turner said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve challenged her to step it up. Not that she wasn’t playing well, but we knew that she could do more. And she’s definitely done that. We’ve gotta have those three big scorers (Tarter, Lyon, Gregory).”
Science Hill’s seniors include Baylee Head and Melea Fenley.
Lindsey Overbey led Volunteer with 12 points. Talented forward Savannah Felgemacher added eight points.
“They’re a really good team,” Turner said. “They have 20-some wins and have won a lot of ballgames. I think our biggest thing is we play such good defense and our pressure is just, you know, we get after you. We don’t sit back and let them attack us, and I think that helps.”
Science Hill concludes the regular season when it hosts Greeneville on Friday.
Science Hill (boys) 73
Volunteer 67, OT
Volunteer’s Ethan Crawford made one of two free throws after 0.2 seconds were put back on an expired clock to force overtime, but sophomore wing Peyton Wingate scored 11 of his 14 points in the extra session as the Hilltoppers (19-9) managed to wrap up conference play with a 9-3 record.
Senior Calvin Songster led Science Hill with 19 points despite not starting and sitting most of the first half on Senior Night. Songster made three 3-pointers. Wingate, Kaden Wampler and senior Blake Begley each made two treys.
Wampler hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Science Hill a 59-57 lead with a minute left in regulation.
Crawford made one of two free throws with 40 seconds left to make it 59-58
David McFarland scored a game-high 26 points for Volunteer. Crawford and Marquise Williams scored 12 and 10, respectively.
Science Hill’s seniors include Hunter Hensley, Aaron Adams, Daniel Sweeney and Andrew Smith. The Hilltoppers host Greeneville Friday.