KINGSPORT – Science Hill had some technical difficulties Friday night at Sullivan South, but didn’t foul up its undefeated record.
Senior guard Zach Howard scored 12 of his game-high 17 points in the first half and the Hilltoppers outscored South 24-9 in the final 11:16 after their coach, Ken Cutlip, received a technical foul in what ended up being as tense a 59-37 victory as you’d ever expect to see.
Cutlip received the technical after the 16th of the first 21 foul calls had gone against the Hilltoppers (8-0, 2-0 Big Eight Conference), who were nonetheless leading 35-28.
Cutlip and official Ronnie Woods aren’t likely to exchange Christmas cards this month, but security officers and Science Hill assistant John Good appeared concerned they might exchange something else after Cutlip was assessed the technical and Woods walked past the scorer’s table and up close to Cutlip near the Science Hill bench for the type of stare down usually complemented by a tale of the tape.
Officers near the scorer’s table were poised to move in, Good did get between the two and cooler heads prevailed.
Cutlip, who sat on the bench the remainder of the game, said he deserved the technical, but obviously wasn’t thrilled about its aftermath – or the math that added up to the disparity in whistles beforehand.
“South plays physical, and Coach (Mark) Pendleton does a great job with that,” Cutlip said. “But it’s tough when you have some quick whistles like that, you know, and that messes up the flow of the game. … We’re obviously not the most physical bunch.”
The hoopla helped inspire the Hilltoppers to close the third quarter on a 6-0 run while building a 41-31 lead. Sophomore Tre’vonn Fields started the stretch with a basket and assisted Howard’s transition score before Will Adams closed the period by making two free throws after getting an offensive rebound.
South looked like it might withstand the flurry. Austin English’s driving bank got the Rebels within 41-35 with 6:34 left, but Adams (10 points) and C.J. Good (10 points) followed with a floater and transition put-back, respectively, to trigger a 16-0 run.
Good’s 3-pointer, via a skip pass from Adams, served as the dagger when it gave the Hilltoppers a 51-35 lead with four minutes remaining.
“I thought our kids played extremely hard and they defended for the most part,” Pendleton said. “It just kind of got lopsided in the end. We missed some shots there and missed some free throws, but I thought the effort was constant.”
Fields scored 13 points for Science Hill.
“(Howard) shot it and carried us there earlier in the game, and then we had other kids – Will Adams and Tre’vonn stepped up late in the game,” Cutlip said. “And C.J. Good hit a big three late.”
Science Hill entered shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range, but shot 20 percent from behind the arc and 36 percent from the field against the Rebels.
“When you’re struggling with your shot, a lot of times you’ll struggle everywhere else,” Cutlip said. “And I thought we fought that for 2 1/2 quarters. … Character was tested tonight, and I liked the way that we responded.
“I think it’s a huge win. We came over here in a hostile environment and found a way to win.”
A.J. Hutchins led the Rebels (0-1, 3-4) with 11 points.
Science Hill visits Tennessee High on Tuesday.
Science Hill (girls) 81
Sullivan South 45
Sophomore post Gabby Lyon scored 21 points and blocked three shots while helping the Lady Toppers improve to 2-0 in the league and 6-0 overall.
“She adds another component to our offense,” Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell said. “We can get the basketball to her inside and she’s gonna score. She can rebound and score. And she’s a good free throw shooter. We couldn’t score inside last year.”
The Lady Toppers can score from all over this season. Lyon was one of five double-digit scorers, along with Shy Copney (13), Tianna Tarter (12), Emanda Reid (12) and Enjelica Reid (11).
Freshman guard Keisha Gregory looked like she already belongs. She made a 3-pointer in a five-point performance and threw a long lob that Tarter caught in the air and banked it in before she descended to the court.
Post player Kayla Tipton led the Lady Rebels with 15 points. South trailed 21-17 with five minutes left in the first half, but the Lady Toppers closed the half on a 14-6 spurt to build a 12-point lead.
Back-to-back transition baskets from Emanda Reid and Copney capped the run during a 10-second span in the half's final 30 seconds.
“We were a little bit uncharacteristic with some turnovers there early,” Barnwell said. “But still, midway through the second quarter, we started moving the ball better – reversing from one side to the other. And finally, the pace took its toll on them, I believe.
"We’re in a position right now where we’ve had some success – we’re fortunate to be where we’re at – and we know teams are going to come out every night and play well against us. South played extremely hard.”
Science Hill will surely get Tennessee High’s best shot on Tuesday.
“I don’t think I’ll have any trouble,” Barnwell said, “motivating them for that one.”