With a home game against top-ranked Oak Hill Academy looming on Monday, Science Hill could’ve looked past Knox Webb on Saturday.
That wasn’t the case, although the final score in the Hilltoppers’ 50-39 victory in the Topper Palace might suggest as much.
Junior point guard Will Adams scored a team-high 13 points and made all seven foul shots, including 6 for 6 in the second half, to help Science Hill gradually pull away in the final night of the Double Tree Roundball at the Palace.
Science Hill (11-0) began the game on a 22-10 run thanks, in part, to six points apiece from Reed Hayes (11 points) and Tre’vonn Fields (10 points).
But Webb, which got 26 points from 6-foot-4 junior swing man Burton Sampson, had cut the deficit to one (28-27) by halftime, and was still within four (39-35) at the end of the third quarter.
Science Hill opened the fourth quarter with two straight baskets — Fields’ interior basket assisted by Adams and Zach Howard’s steal and transition layup — to generate what felt like breathing room against Webb’s plodding pace.
“You hope that you can get them out of what they do and play your way,” Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “And I think we had about a three- or four-minute stretch in the first half — they played our way. Well, the other 28 minutes, we had to play their way. “And we did not win that battle, but the great thing about is that we found a different way to win tonight. We grew. I think we took some steps forward tonight. When you look at the score you say, ‘Gosh, what happened? They must have played awful.’ No, we played — I thought we played pretty good.”
Despite the low-scoring pace, the Hilltoppers nearly had four players score in double figures. Junior guard C.J. Good scored nine points and also handed out three assists. He threw a cutting Fields a diagonal bounce pass for a backdoor layup that gave Science Hill a 26-19 lead with three minutes left in the first half.
Good also had a steal and transition lay-up he converted with the left hand despite a bump, which led to a three-point play in the first quarter.
Hayes also scored on a crowd-pleasing assist from reserve point guard Hunter Hensley in the first half.
“They share the ball as well as any Science Hill team I’ve seen,” said Webb coach Ricky Norris, whose team fell to 8-2 on the season. “Now, they’ve had some great players. I’m not saying they’re as talented. But boy, they are fun to watch, because they move the basketball and they’re very unselfish.”
Webb is quite the opposite when it comes to scoring distribution, although Sampson is an efficient scorer. The inside-out threat was 11 of 13 from the field on Saturday while scoring two-thirds of his team’s points after scoring 27 of 52 in a loss to Elizabethton on Friday.
“He’s a good player,” Norris said. “He’s a 6-4 kid who’s a matchup problem, because he can put the ball on the floor and he can stretch it by making shots. And he wasn’t born like that. The kid loves basketball and he lives in the gym.”
Norris was relatively pleased with Saturday’s performance — other than the first quarter, that is.
“One of our focuses was to stay in the game in the first five minutes,” he said. “And of course, they built a 12-point lead. And then we finally settle in and outscore them the next two quarters. But on the road against a good team, you can’t dig yourself a hole like that.”
Hayes got five of his 10 rebounds on the offensive end for Science Hill, which was led in steals by Howard (five) and Adams (four).
Science Hill hosts Oak Hill, which among others, has signees with Purdue, UCLA, North Carolina State and Georgetown, on Monday at 7 p.m.
Oteriah Lee made five 3-pointers while scoring a game-high 23 points for Christian Academy of Knoxville.
Lee, a quick, heady point guard, also made a difficult leaner after an end-to-end drive and drove down the lane to assist Dalton Keck’s lay-in that gave the Warriors a 30-17 lead a moment before the halftime buzzer.
J.P. Presley drove across the lane and made a short floater that capped a 10-4 run to give CAK a 40-21 lead with 5:28 left in the third quarter. Elizabethton wasn’t closer than 15 points the rest of the game.
Justin Wandell scored 14 points for the Cyclones (2-4). Elizabethton was playing its second game under new coach Len Dugger, who was coaching the Elizabethton girls before replacing Tony Gordon following his resignation on Wednesday.
The Cyclones beat Knox Webb, 56-52, in Dugger’s debut on Friday. Webb coach Ricky Norris said matching up with Elizabethton’s size was about as difficult for his personnel as matching up with all of Science Hill’s guards.
“Elizabethton’s so big and physically strong,” Norris said. “No. 40 (Aaron Miller) was our matchup problem, and he got in foul trouble today (against CAK). He just beat us up inside. … They’re gonna have a good year once they settle in and get everything going, because they’ve got some (players).”
Keck had 12 points and Presley added 11.
Tennessee High (girls) 58
Ashlee Mitchell scored 20 points and Chloe Neil added 10 for the Lady Vikings (6-2).
Brianna Bryant led all scorers with 25 points for CAK (4-4) after scoring 30 in a 61-58 loss to Science Hill on Friday.