BLOUNTVILLE — Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip wasn’t impressed with how his team practiced Monday and Tuesday. Volunteer was impressed with how his Hilltoppers played Wednesday.
Science Hill began its District 1-AAA opener by outscoring the Falcons 62-9 during the first 26 minutes, and suffocating defense was a constant during the 71-23 victory.
Science Hill (28-2) plays Saturday at 6 p.m. in the semifinals against Tennessee High (20-10), which ended David Crockett’s season in Tuesday’s nightcap.
“We didn’t have the normal type of practice the last couple of days that we normally do,” Cutlip said. “Tonight our kids came out and played with a lot of energy. I told them that the biggest thing you have to have come tournament time is you have to have emotion and energy which produces effort.”
The defensive intensity kept Volunteer scoreless for the opening 12-plus minutes. By then the Falcons had double-digit turnovers.
“We were just relentless on the defensive end,” Cutlip said. “We guarded, and even though they were patient early, we didn’t gamble, we didn’t reach; we played good position defense with great pressure. That generated most of our offense.”
Senior wing Zach Howard made three 3-pointers while scoring a game-high 13 points for Science Hill. Junior point guard Will Adams and junior swing man Reed Hayes added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Eleven Hilltoppers scored. C.J. Good, Tre’vonn Fields, Hunter LeVeau and Tyler Miles each finished with six points.
No Science Hill starters scored in the fourth quarter. Senior Buddy Gosey, who has missed nearly the entire season after suffering a knee injury in the autumn, hustled down a loose ball — still somewhat gimpy — to score the game’s last basket.
“That’s the kind of player he is,” Cutlip said. “That was fitting for a kid like that.”
Zach Crawford scored six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter for Volunteer, which ended the season at 4-24.
Tennesse High 58
David Crockett 31
The fourth-seeded Vikings avenged last year’s season-ending loss to Crockett at the same point in the season while beating the Pioneers for the fifth time in six meetings the past two years.
Brennan Crandell and Nathan Terrill scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, for Tennessee High, but the Vikings’ defense was Crockett’s chief obstacle. The Vikings forced numerous turnovers while allowing a scarcity of good shots in their matchup zones.
“It’s tough; it’s a zone with man principles, basically,” Pioneers coach Richard Tarlton said. “There’s nothing soft about it. I mean, they pressure the ball well and they keep you on your toes. And we had a lot of lazy passes today. …
“We just didn’t act like we’s ready to play early. We got dominated on the boards early. We turned it over like Christmas-time gift-wrapping.”
David Crockett (16-14) got eight points apiece from post Kohl Tarlton and guard Anthony Campbell. Campell parlayed a turnover into a transition basket and potential three-point play to begin the second half. But he missed the free throw that would’ve cut the Vikings’ lead to 30-19, and Tennessee High responded with a 10-2 run that Austin Delp capped with two free throws for a 40-20 lead with 3:24 left in the third quarter.
The Pioneers’ Tarlton and Campbell are seniors, as are Joe Ganger, Austin Street, Seth Wright and Issac McGee.
“I told them I’s very proud of them,” Tarlton said. “This makes their third year with me, and over the past three years they have taken this program and made it very respectable. … I told them they were a big part of what we got accomplished these past three years and they have nothing to be ashamed of.
“When it comes tournament time it don’t take but that one bad night, and then you go home. And we had our night tonight.”
Tennessee High coach Roby Witcher was pleased with the effort and execution of his players.
“It’s kind of what you like to see as a coach, especially this time of year, because if you lose that one you don’t get to play any more,” Witcher said. “We’ve had great senior leadership.”
Witcher is eager to get another shot at the Hilltoppers on Saturday.
“They’re one of the better teams in the state of Tennessee,” he said. “We played them tough at their place, I felt like, and played them pretty close at our place for a while. And then they got away from us in the fourth quarter.
“We’ll try to put together a game plan and hang right there with them.”