BLOUNTVILLE — Missing 10 of its first 11 shots from 3-point range didn’t keep Science Hill from building a 15-point halftime lead against Tennessee High in Monday’s District 1-AAA girls’ championship game at the Dickie Warren Dome.
It didn’t keep the Lady Hilltoppers from continuing to shoot them either. They made six straight treys in the third quarter and coasted to a 74-40 victory for their second consecutive district title.
The Lady ’Toppers (32-0) will host Sevier County (17-15) on Friday at 7 p.m. in a Region 1-AAA opener. Tennessee High (26-5) will host Morristown West (21-9).
Science Hill began the second half on a 17-0 run to take a 55-23 lead. Morgan Knack made three 3-pointers from the right corner in a 90-second span early in the third quarter, and found Keisha Gregory with a skip pass for another trey that stretched the lead to 58-25 with 3:34 remaining in the period.
Shy Copney added a step-back 3-pointer off the dribble, and the quarter fittingly ended when Emanda Reid beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer that barely moved the net on an assist from Gregory.
“We were struggling with our threes throughout the game … but we don’t stop shooting,” said tournament MVP Enjelica Reid, who scored all of her game-high 17 points inside the arc. “Coach Barnwell doesn’t want us to stop. Morgan Knack was able to step out there and knock them down — her and Shy Copney.”
Science Hill overcame first-half foul trouble to Gabby Lyon and Tianna Tarter in a game when both teams had to endure numerous whistles that led to incredulous expressions from coaches, players and fans — and a technical foul on the Tennessee High bench.
Science Hill’s defensive pressure was the best barometer of its collective focus. The Lady Vikings, who have a capable backcourt led by athletic Ashlee Mitchell, were held to single-digit scoring in three of the fast-paced game’s four quarters.
“I thought our kids did a good job of pressuring and forcing kids other than Mitchell to have to handle the ball and do things that are just making it tough for them,” said Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell, whose team has won 56 of its last 57 games. “I think our kids have really stepped up to another level, especially defensively, which is what you need this time of year. I mean, our three district tournament games — the defensive intensity and what we did was just really, really impressive. …
“I told the kids at halftime, ‘We’re shooting way too many threes against that zone. I said, ‘We’re 1 for 11. We’ve got to really work the ball around and get the ball inside more.’ I think we were 6 of 9, maybe, in the second half.”
Knack finished with 13 points. Copney and Tarter added 12 and 11, respectively, and Lyon scored six of her eight in the second half.
“I thought they hurt us a little bit on the offensive boards in the first half,” Barnwell said. “We talked about that. I thought we did a much better job in the second half of boxing out and rebounding. That led to some easy baskets, and then in transition, we got some kick-outs and knocked down some threes, too.”
McKenzie Dickson led Tennessee High with 12 points. Mitchell added nine.
“Our main defense against them is ‘Watch Ashlee,’” Reid said. “We know that she can take over … and that any time a game can change.”
Science Hill’s intensity level in the third quarter appeared to be as high as it’s been all season.
“We’re undefeated but still want to play hard,” Reid said. “To come out and jump on them (in the second half) was something that Coach Barnwell really urged us to do. So we kept our press up. We’re not slacking off or taking anybody lightly.”
Tennessee High has lost three games by a combined 84 points to Science Hill. Otherwise, the Lady Vikings record is 26-2.
“They’re a good basketball team,” Tennessee High coach Barry Wade said. “They do things real well. I don’t think we’re 30 points worse than those guys, but we’ve just got some things we need to work on.
“We just rushed everything. And you know, they force the pace that way. … We got frustrated.”
Sullivan South (consolation) 59
Daniel Boone 46
Courtney McKenzie scored nine of her 15 points in a three-minute span of the second quarter to help the Lady Rebels build a 31-17 halftime lead.
South built its advantage to 53-26 on Megan Fuller’s transition basket early in the fourth quarter.
Natalie Sheffey and Jenny Snyder scored nine and seven points, respectively, for Daniel Boone (18-11), which opens regional play Friday at Morristown East (26-4).
Sullivan South (21-11) visits Seymour (18-12) on Friday.