KINGSPORT — Science Hill was in a funk in the first half, and in the zone the rest of the way.
The Hilltoppers bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 60-44 win against rival Dobyns-Bennett in a matchup of Big Eight Conference unbeatens on Friday night at the Buck Van Huss Dome.
Science Hill (4-0, 12-1) trailed by two at intermission thanks, in part, to 29 percent shooting and eight points from D-B guard Michael Norris. But Norris didn’t score in a second half that included nine of Reed Hayes’ 11 points and a 16-0 run and 8-of-9 field goal shooting in the fourth quarter.
Hayes made two of his three 3-pointers in the third quarter while helping the Hilltoppers outscore the Indians (3-1, 5-4) 16-7 to take a 39-32 lead. His final trey gave Science Hill a 47-36 lead with 6:25 left and triggered the 16-0 run that Marc Aples capped with an 18-footer to stretch the lead to 60-36 with 1:38 remaining.
Science Hill finished with 10 treys. Reserve wing Calvin Songster made two, including a pull-up from the left wing in transition to give the Hilltoppers a 50-36 lead with 4:55 left — a time and situation when Cutlip wasn’t thrilled to see it leave Songster’s hands.
“Until it went in,” Cutlip said with a smile. “He hit a big shot, Marc Aples hit two big shots and Daniel Sweeney hit a big shot.”
Tre’vonn Fields, who finished with two 3-pointers, scored 10 of his game-high 13 points while keeping Science Hill close in the first half. The Hilltoppers have established veterans in guards Will Adams, C.J. Good (10 points) and Zach Howard, but the maturation of Fields and Hayes is where the majority of the team’s upside appears to reside.
“Tre’vonn had 13 points, four assists and three rebounds for us,” Cutlip said. “Reed is continuing to learn to play the role we have him in. I mean he’s a perimeter guy in, basically, an inside-out role. He’s starting to accept the role of guarding bigger people and taking it at bigger people, but he still does it as a guard. …
“I really thought we did a much better job in the second half on the boards.”
Hayes finished with a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds), six assists and no turnovers. Adams had eight assists and scored all seven of his points in the second half, including a steal and three-point play in transition — “Like a jet,” D-B coach Charlie Morgan said — that gave the Hilltoppers a 33-29 lead with 2:22 left in the third quarter.
Hayes followed with a transition trey via kick-out from Howard.
Good, who had six rebounds, began the fourth quarter with a steal and lay-up.
“That was the key: we got some steals and easy baskets, and then we were able to knock down some perimeter shots,” Cutlip said. “I thought it was important we continue to run and try to push the pace, and we were able to get some easy shots there in the second half as the game wore on.”
Post Connor Mitchell scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t remember the last time I played a whole game of zone,” Morgan said, “but we’re gonna have to play more of that, because I feel like we can really spread the floor — stretch the floor a little bit — and we can rebound pretty good. They’re tough for us to guard man to man. They spread you out and they don’t really have a post game; they have a motion game.
“I think we had just 11 turnovers in the first half … and I think we had eight in the third quarter. Plus, we shot ourselves in the foot even more by only scoring four points (in the third). We’ve really got to learn to take care of that basketball better.”
Science Hill is off until Dec. 28 when it takes on a team that Cutlip heard has a quality, good-sized post player and is one of the best four teams in the state.