Science Hill had some unforgettable senior moments on Senior Night at the ’Topper Palace.
Senior wing Zach Howard outscored Daniel Boone 11-10 in the first quarter en route to a game-high 19 points and the Hilltoppers tightened up the defense in the second half to pull away for an 89-64 victory.
Third-ranked Science Hill (12-0, 24-2) clinched the Big Eight Conference title outright while winning its 39th straight regular-season league game.
The second-ranked Lady ’Toppers (12-0, 26-0), who don’t have any seniors, clinched at least a share of their third straight league title and the conference’s No. 1 seed with a 63-41 win against Boone.
The Hilltoppers started four other seniors with Howard — Todd Page-Gilmore, Tyler Miles, Hunter LeVeau and Buddy Gosey, who made his first appearance of the season due to an offseason knee injury.
Gosey couldn’t return after playing the initial three minutes, but he and his senior mates handed the rest of the regular starters a 6-0 lead. Another crowd-pleasing moment was when the popular Miles, who will sign today to play offensive line for Austin Peay’s football program, made a free throw late in the game.
“We started the game great,” Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “Our seniors started out really well for us, and that was important. … They cleared Buddy enough just to play the first part of the game. Buddy Gosey’s the epitome of what it means to be a Hilltopper. He’ll do anything to help the team win.”
Howard’s pull-up 3-pointer in transition gave the Hilltoppers a 19-3 lead with 1:22 left in the first quarter. It was one of three treys for Howard and one of 14 the ’Toppers made. C.J. Good made five treys and finished with 18 points.
The perimeter attack was crucial — at least for a half. Jacob Littleton scored 14 of his 17 points in the second quarter to help Boone get within 47-42 at halftime.
“We were able to jump on them early, and then the defense just disappeared,” Cutlip said. “We had trouble containing them, and if they had any looks they knocked them down. We had them shooting 61 percent in the first half.
“I think we’ve been giving up 49 points a game on the season, and for them to have 42 at the half was disappointing. But I give a lot of credit to them; they shot the ball well.”
Ryan Gaitor (13 points) and Littleton finished a lot of drives with difficult, leaning banks.
“They’re tough to deal with one on one because they’re able to make tough, off-balance shots,” Cutlip said.
Reed Hayes had 17 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals for Science Hill. Tre’vonn Fields made three treys and scored 14 points. LeVeau had a team-high nine rebounds, five points and four assists.
Good had five assists. Will Adams tallied eight points and four assists.
Science Hill (girls) 63
Natalie Sheffey scored eight of her nine points while helping the Lady Blazers stay within four points (30-26) for a half, but Enjelica Reid scored four of her six points and had a steal and an assist as the Lady ’Toppers opened the second half on 10-3 run.
“We weren’t coming for a moral victory, but we felt good about ourselves going in down four (at halftime),” said Boone coach Tim Campbell, whose team fell to 7-5 in the league and 13-9 overall. “And then, of course, we said, ‘Don’t let them have runs,’ and they come out right off the bat with a 6- or 7-0 run. You know they’re coming, even though you try everything in the world to try and prevent it.”
Sophomore post Gabby Lyon scored a game-high 16 points for Science Hill, which won for the 50th time in its past 51 games.
“Gabby’s just hard for people to deal with inside when we get the ball in there in positions for her to score,” Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell said. “She’s done it all year, even against bigger kids.”
Junior Kathleen Casey gives the Blazers size in the post, but Lyon found room to operate.
“Gabby Lyon’s the best post player around — bar none,” Campbell said.
Junior wing Shy Copney scored 13 points for Science Hill. Sophomore point guard Tianna Tarter added nine, and Shae Smith and Emanda Reid scored seven apiece. The active Smith also had several blocks and steals.
“I thought we did a great job in the second half defensively,” Barnwell said. “We gutted it out, and we did a good job in the second half of getting the ball inside. Boone plays good solid defense and they’re not going to give you anything easy. They did a good of slowing the pace down by the way they played defense. We never really seemed to get the pace the way we wanted it.”
Science Hill visits David Crockett on Friday. Boone hosts Sullivan Central.