KINGSPORT — If it was college basketball, it would be the kind of marquee win to help a team’s RPI ranking.
Science Hill defeated Bearden 78-68 Tuesday night in the Kia of Kingsport Shootout at the Buck Van Huss Dome.
Taking a 43-42 lead off CJ Good’s runner in the third quarter, the Hilltoppers (4-0) led the rest of the way against last year’s state runner-up Bulldogs (2-1).
Science Hill head coach Ken Cutlip knew his team was ready for the early showdown hours earlier.
“We had a tremendous practice yesterday, the best practice of the year,” Cutlip said. “That effort carried over tonight.”
Will Adams scored 19 points, including a 12-of-13 night at the free-throw line, and dished out four assists to lead Science Hill. His efforts helped offset a 28-point, 20-rebound performance by the Bulldogs’ Drew Sandifer.
Like his head coach, Adams credited the preparation leading up to the game for the big victory.
“We went hard in practice all week,” said Adams, a 5-foot-10 guard just two weeks removed from football. “That just makes us better. We executed out there and played as hard as we could. We were getting to the ball, putting on pressure and getting steals.”
Science Hill forced 20 turnovers, including 14 steals. The Hilltoppers committed 14 turnovers themselves, but only had four in the second half.
Reed Hayes came through with 16 points, a team-best seven rebounds and three steals. The 6-foot-1 junior guard had a trio of 3-point baskets.
If Science Hill needed extra motivation besides the opportunity to play a team which has reached the state tournament for three straight years, Hayes said the Hilltoppers were ready to silence critics who have talked about this being a down year.
“A lot of people have been saying we’re not going to be as good as we’ve been in the past,” Hayes said. “We showed tonight that we’re still going to compete and try to win as many (games) as we can.”
Hayes nailed a pair of 3-point baskets before the end of the first quarter to give Science Hill a 22-16 lead. A basket by Marc Aples pushed the lead out to eight before an 11-0 run by Bearden.
The teams battled back and forth the rest of the half until Sam Greene’s reverse layup gave the Bulldogs a 31-30 lead at the intermission.
The teams continued to be nip and tuck in the third quarter until Good made a contested jumper from the free-throw line to give Science Hill a 48-44 lead heading into the final period.
The ‘Toppers then built a 10-point lead on a pair of Adams free throws before the Bulldogs rallied to cut the lead to four. Zach Howard responded with a crucial 3-pointer and then drove the baseline for a reverse layup with 1:32 left to give Science Hill some breathing room.
Overall, it was a balanced attack for the ‘Toppers with five players reaching double figures. Good provided an all-around effort of 14 points, four assists and four steals. Howard ended with a dozen points and Trevonn Fields added 10.
Sam Greene was the only Bearden player besdies Sandifer to reach double digits with a 14-point effort.
“It was a tremendous win,” Cutlip said. “We continue to grow and I thought we took a huge step tonight towards becoming a much better ball club.”
The homestanding Indians (1-0) went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter and led the rest of the way to defeat the Greene Devils (0-3).
Connor Mitchell was Dobyns-Bennett’s high scorer with 18 points, while Malik Foreman with 12 and Drew Adams with 10 also reached double digits.
“Connor is a guy without varsity experience who really played well tonight,” Morgan said. “He’s a real go-getter. He played strong inside at the post. He went to the boards real strong and had nine rebounds for us. He likes to mix it up and go after it.”
Landon Duncan poured in 15 points to lead Greeneville, which also had an 11-point effort from Trevor Ford.