BLOUNTVILLE — District 1-AAA girls’ basketball is getting along in years.
Science Hill has still lost one game since 2010, and Daniel Boone hasn’t beaten Tennessee High since 2005.
The second-ranked Lady Hilltoppers got 20 points and 10 rebounds from junior wing Shy Copney in an 87-35 win against Sullivan South in Friday’s district semifinal opener at the Dickie Warren Dome.
Science Hill (31-0), which won for the 55th time in its past 56 games, will play Tennessee High on Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the championship. The Lady Vikings (26-4) withstood a late flurry from Boone (17-10) by pulling away for a 56-39 victory.
Boone and South (20-11) also advance to the Region 1-AAA tournament, and will meet in Monday’s consolation game at 6 p.m.
It was business as usual for Darrell Barnwell’s Lady ’Toppers. Copney and frontcourt mates Gabby Lyon and Enjelica Reid had all reached double-figure scoring by the time Science Hill built a 44-17 halftime lead.
Copney scored on one-dribble moves near the basket, cutting for a layup via a bounce pass from Shae Smith, a steal and transition basket, a reverse lay-in and, not surprisingly, a stick-back.
“She just rebounded the heck out of it tonight,” Barnwell said. “She just went after everything. And when she couldn’t get it she was tipping it up for somebody else to go get it. I thought she did a great job of just keeping balls alive and just finishing around the basket. …
“Shy’s starting to play at a little bit different level than she has in the regular season. Things are just starting to click a little bit more for her.”
Copney enjoys throwing long outlet passes for layups about as much as knocking down long perimeter shots. Few players in Northeast Tennessee can throw 75-foot outlets and skip passes across zones with the pace and accuracy which she does.
“That makes us more of a team, I guess,” Copney said. “When I get the rebound I’m looking for the outlet. … I’m looking for my teammates first. …
“Basically, it’s just wanting to win a championship. That’s really what we’re focused on. We’re not focusing on coming out and winning by 60. We could care less about that.”
Lyon (18) and Reid (17) scored in double figures, as did sophomore point guard Tianna Tarter (16). The athletic Tarter began the second half by triggering a 10-0 run with two straight transition baskets.
Kayla Tipton led South with eight points.
Tennessee High appeared headed for a rout, too. Keely Easterling capped a game-opening 20-4 run with a pair of 3-pointers.
But Boone’s Jordan Bacon (15 points) capped a 10-point quarter with a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to get the Lady Blazers within 32-24, and they had one more rally in them after Ashlee Mitchell (18 points) drove to give Tennessee High a 41-30 lead with 7:16 left in the game.
Allison Littleton capped a 9-0 run with a transition basket that trimmed the Vikings’ lead to two points with 5:03 remaining, but Boone missed two free throws and Mitchell made a couple of inbounds baskets and the lead was double digits for the final 3:23.
“What an effort to come back and, you know, be in that situation,” Boone coach Tim Campbell said. “And that’s what we said when we took that timeout (early): ‘Listen, it’s got to go one play at a time and we’re gonna get back in this thing.’ …
“We missed those two free throws … and then we got the front end of a one-and-one and missed it. And then when that happened, the wheels ran off. You’ve got to give them credit. I thought (McKenzie) Dickson stepped up and killed us in the fourth quarter. … She just killed us rebounding.”
Easterling and Dickson scored 10 and eight points, respectively. Amber Godsey and Jenny Matheson had seven apiece. Mitchell, a quick, strong point guard, scored nine of her 18 in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t panic, and that was the big thing,” Tennessee High coach Barry Wade said. “They got excited and they used a lot of energy. So we felt like, you know, the big key was getting the inbounds play, getting it in to Ashlee. We hadn’t run it all year. …
“We wanted to stop the momentum … and get a score and get back into our press. They had trouble handling the ball the whole night and they’d gotten a little bit tired.”
Campbell said assistant coach Jeremy Jenkins had Boone committing something in the neighborhood of 38 turnovers.
“A phenomenal number,” Campbell said. “We’re trying to learn to step up into the upper-echelon teams. I don’t know if we don’t believe that we should or we can’t, but we’re getting closer. … They just closed us out like winners do.”