Science Hill clinched at least a share of the Big Eight Conference championship and the league tournament’s top seed with its 38th straight regular-season win in the conference Friday night at home against Dobyns-Bennett.
Reed Hayes paced four double-digit scorers with 12 points and the Hilltoppers held on after a fast start for a 62-51 victory.
Third-ranked Science Hill (11-0, 23-2) completed a sweep of D-B (8-3, 12-9), and even if the Hilltoppers should lose their final three league games, they have the head-to-head tiebreakers with the Indians and Tennessee High.
Dobyns-Bennett was on the ropes early. Science Hill dashed to a 26-6 lead in the opening 8:49 — a spurt that was capped by a pull-up, transition 3-pointer from C.J. Good. It was the Hilltoppers’ sixth trey in eight-plus minutes; they finished with 10.
“We wanted to get out of the gates early with a lot of energy, and rebounded well early,” Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “I think that got us into transition and we were able to get some great looks, and we knocked them down. Unfortunately when you jump out on a team early like that … you can get a false sense of security.
“I didn’t feel like we relaxed defensively, but we relaxed when the shot went up and we quit blocking out. And they’re too good of a team and they’re too big of a team to let them get second and third chances. They just fought their way back into the game, and that’s a credit to them.”
D-B 6-foot-5 center Connor Mitchell got eight of his 11 points via offensive rebounds. His tip-in after Malik Foreman missed on a drive got the Indians within 45-39 with 7:18 left in the game, and the Hilltoppers’ lead was down to four when Foreman’s interior pass found Cory Combs for a basket on the left block with 6:26 left.
But Science Hill answered when Tre’vonn Fields (11 points, five rebounds, three assists) found Good in the left corner for a 3-pointer 17 seconds later. It started a 7-0 run that included two baskets from Hayes.
One of Hayes’ baskets came on an inbounds underneath play that made it 52-41 with five minutes left, and Science Hill ran the same play to the other block to get Fields a three-point play that made it 55-43 with 3:49 remaining.
Ty’leke Love, a 6-foot-2 sophomore wing, made two 3-pointers while scoring 10 of his game-high 14 points in the third quarter. Devaun Swafford (12) and Combs (10) joined Love and Mitchell in double figures.
“A lot of teams get down early like that, especially in our gym, and it’s probably over,” Cutlip said. “But not that group – not a coach Morgan-coached team. They’re gonna battle back, and they did.”
Hayes also had six rebounds, five assists and two steals for Science Hill. Will Adams had 10 points and seven assists, made 7 of 8 free throws, including 5-for-5 foul shooting in the fourth quarter. Zach Howard made three treys en route to 11 points.
Dobyns-Bennett was 4-for-14 at the foul line. Indians reserve guard Michael Norris left the game with 7:38 remaining when he fell to the floor under the basket and the back of his head hit the court loudly enough to hear over the capacity crowd. It was the third hard spill this season for Norris, who suffered a concussion at Morristown East early in the season.
Science Hill hosts Daniel Boone for Senior Night on Tuesday.
Science Hill (girls) 77
Science Hill led 30-10 at the end of one quarter and stretched the lead to 46-17 with 3:09 left in the first half, before coasting to its 24th straight victory on the season and 48th in its last 49 games.
The Lady Toppers were led by sophomore post Gabby Lyon’s 15 points. Tianna Tarter and Enjelica Reid added 14 and 10, respectively.
Reid was recognized after the game for scoring her 1,000th career point in Tuesday’s win against Volunteer. Fellow junior Shy Copney also scored her 1,000th career point on Tuesday for the Lady Toppers, (11-0, 24-0), who are ranked No. 2 in the state and Nos. 16 and 38, respectively, in the nation by MaxPreps and ESPN.
Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell was pleased to see Reid and Copney reach the milestone on the same night – a milestone usually reserved for players’ senior season.
“It’s just a testament to them,” Barnwell said. “I thought it was kind of strange that both stayed that close as far as points. I kept watching it this year, because I knew they’d get it sometime this season.
“It was back and forth, and they both just happened to hit it at the same time on Tuesday. Tonight was a really good night for us to recognize them with the big crowd.”
Copney scored all eight of her points in the first half. Morgan Knack and Keisha Gregory also scored eight points apiece.
The final 2 1/2 quarters were essentially “garbage time,” and Barnwell wasn’t fretting too much about some ragged play after his team opened the game with a 46-17 run.
“I just thought our defensive intensity wasn’t quite as strong after that,” Barnwell said. “We fouled them more than we needed to. But I thought overall we did a pretty good job. Offensively, we did some good things.”
Sasha Morrissette led D-B with 23 points. Alex Anderson scored 10.
Science Hill plays against Wise-Central (Va.) tonight at 7 at UVa-Wise.