Science Hill’s boys couldn’t buy a break. The Lady Hilltoppers had to play without Tianna Tarter.
One of them overcame adversity, and the other didn’t.
Greeneville roared back from a 10-point deficit to force overtime, and eventually earned a 56-54 double-overtime victory in the boys’ game Friday night at the new ‘Topper Palace.
“Right now this team’s confidence is shaken,” said Hilltoppers’ head coach Ken Cutlip, whose team lost to Greeneville for a second time this season and fell to 19-10 overall.
In the girls’ game, not having their standout point guard because of illness created some nervous energy in the locker room. But Science Hill unleashed all of it, setting a season high for points in an 86-26 destruction of the Lady Greene Devils.
The start-to-finish response capped off the Lady Hilltoppers’ second perfect regular season in three years, and moved them to 28-0 on the season.
It wasn’t such a fun evening for the boys. They led 44-34 with 2:25 left in regulation before Hays Culbreth hit a 3-pointer to start a 10-0 run by Greeneville that was capped by Anton Almqvist’s layup with 37 seconds left in regulation.
Eleven seconds later, Cutlip called timeout just a split-second before Peyton Wingate swished a 3-pointer from the corner. The Hilltoppers held for the last shot, but couldn’t get anything to fall and the game went into overtime.
Science Hill led 48-46 after Malik McGue hit a pair of free throws with 9.1 seconds left in the first overtime, but Trevor Wright zipped a pass to Raheem Young who hit a layup just a fraction of a second before the buzzer.
In the second overtime, Science Hill tied the game on a pair of free throws from Wingate with 32.2 seconds left. Greeneville held for the last shot, and Almqvist’s driving layup with 3.5 seconds remaining put the Greene Devils ahead, 56-54.
After a timeout, Science Hill curled McGue and hit him on the run near midcourt. As he was driving toward the foul line, Cutlip called timeout — just before McGue flipped a shot in the basket with 1.5 seconds left.
Greeneville head coach Brad Woolsey said it was just bad luck for Cutlip on the two timeouts.
“You make the right decision, but your guy makes the shot,” said Woolsey. “Also remember there’s less pressure when you release it after the whistle has blown.”
Cutlip said, “In both situations we were in bad spots on the floor. I’ve seen us turn the ball over, and I just wanted to put our kids in the best position to be successful.”
After the timeout the Hilltoppers tried hit a moving Calvin Songster, but Culbreth got a hand on the ball and time expired as there was a scramble for the loose ball.
“You talk about plays and players, and it was definitely about plays and players tonight,” said Woolsey.
Cutlip said he had no issues with how hard his kids played.
“We gave the effort to win,” he said. “In no way do I question the effort tonight. We played as hard as we possibly could.
“It comes down to putting the ball in the hole. And we have to take care of the basketball.”
Songster finished with 19 points for the Hilltoppers while Wingate totaled 15. McGue finished with 10 points, six assists and six steals.
Greeneville (18-8) got 15 points from Almqvist and 10 from Culbreth.
Science Hill (girls) 86
Tarter missed the game because she was ill and did not attend school. Not having her Northeast Tennessee-leading 18.7 points per game — not to mention 5.4 assists and 3.3 steals — and still winning in a blowout was a very positive thing heading into the postseason, said Science Hill head coach Keith Turner.
“We thought it was good for us,” said Turner. “What if she is sick in the tournaments, or tweaks an ankle? You want to be able to respond, and I thought we did.”
The perfect regular season was a day-in day-out feat, and not lost on Turner.
“They’ve just taken pride in it, and winning breeds winning,” said Turner.
Guard Baylee Head said there was some trepidation prior to the game.
“We were very nervous,” said Head. “We thought we were going to score probably 20-30 points less than we usually do. But we were motivated to play hard because we didn’t have (Tarter).”
It was evident from possession one throughout the first quarter. Science Hill’s defense was long, as usual, and relentless, as expected. Greeneville struggled to even make a clean pass as the Lady Hilltoppers surged to a 22-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.
It didn’t get any better for Greeneville in the second quarter. Science Hill started with an 11-2 run, and then ripped off 18 straight points to secure a 51-8 advantage.
A 20-0 run late in the third and early fourth quarter kept Greeneville reeling.
Head was front and center throughout, finishing with 10 points, five assists and six steals.
“That was the best Baylee has played defensively,” said Turner. “She got out in the passing lanes, and at 6-foot-1 she’s long.”
Head said everybody had to make up for Tarter’s missing defense.
“She gets a lot of defensive fast breaks,” said Head. “So we had to turn it up.”
Gabby Lyon was her usual steady self, totaling 22 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Keisha Gregory was also a force, totaling 18 points. Miracle Aples chipped in with 10 points.
Greeneville (14-11) was led by Madison Grubbs,’ nine points.