BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan South coach Mark Pendleton said trying to defend Science Hill is like plugging holes in a dam, and his Rebels got washed away in the District 1-AAA championship game Tuesday night at the Dickie Warren Dome.
Six Hilltoppers scored while opening the game on a 17-4 run and four had reached double figures by the end of the 71-39 victory.
It was the second straight district title and third in four years for the Hilltoppers (30-2), who have now won at least 30 games in five of eight seasons under Coach Ken Cutlip.
Science Hill will host Jefferson County (18-13) in a Region 1-AAA opener on Saturday at 7 p.m. Sullivan South will host Cherokee (23-7).
Cutlip watched South jump out to a 10-3 lead en route to a 67-65 semifinal upset of Dobyns-Bennett on Saturday, and didn’t want the Rebels energized by another fast start.
Tournament MVP Reed Hayes (13 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two blocks) started the scoring with a transition stick-back in the initial 18 seconds and the Hilltoppers were up 11-2 some three minutes later after Hunter LeVeau’s baseball outlet pass was turned into a layup by Calvin Songster.
C.J. Good (12 points, seven rebounds, five assists two steals) capped the 17-4 spurt with a transition layup that he helped create with a crowd-pleasing behind-the-back dribble.
“South was coming off a very emotional game on Saturday night, and I noticed in that game that they were able to get up on Dobyns-Bennett early,” Cutlip said. “They carried that momentum throughout the entire ballgame. I think that was big that we were able to get them down early.”
South trailed by 16 at the half, but A.J. Hutchins opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer and a three-point play to get the Rebels within 35-25.
The momentum was as fleeting as a Hilltoppers fast break. Tre’vonn Fields answered Hutchins’ spurt by kicking out to Good for a 3-pointer and then scored eight of his 15 points during a 21â„2-minute stretch.
Fields’ interior basket via an inbounds pass from Good gave the ’Toppers a 54-31 lead with 1:55 left in the third quarter.
Zach Howard, who matched Fields with a team-high 15 points, made one of his three treys during the decisive run.
“It was the way we started more than anything, as far as letting them come out and just jump on us,” Pendleton said.
“We were back on our heels to start the game. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the other night; it may have.
“But, you know, playing them’s like trying to keep the dam from bursting. You think you’ve put a finger on one leak and here comes another one. I mean they’ve got guys that can shoot. They’re unselfish. They play extremely hard defensively. They hurt us on the glass tonight.”
LeVeau finished with 11 rebounds, seven points, four blocked shots and two steals. Cutlip lauded the effort of Hayes, the hustle of Good that led to such plays as a transition stick-back and the rebounding and defense of LeVeau.
“Hunter hadn’t played as well in the tournament, but boy, he really asserted himself tonight, stepping up and getting 11 rebounds for us,” Cutlip said. “I thought he was really tough inside defensively and made it difficult on them.”
Hayes hadn’t spent any time this season thinking about postseason tournament honors.
“It didn’t come through my mind,” said the focused Hayes. “This win is just a step. We want to keep pushing. We’ve got other goals to reach.”
Will Adams, playing in a reserve role after being late to a shootaround, matched Good’s team-high five assists. Cutlip said Adams responded well to not starting.
“In my opinion, I’ve got six MVPs on my team,” Cutlip said. “And on a given night or series of games, any one of those six could be our MVP. Reed played exceptionally well throughout the tournament. It’s a well deserved award for him.
“I think that just shows the progress he’s made over the last few years in our program. He scores, but he does more than score. Tonight, he was all over the rebounds.”
Hutchins led South with 16 points. Forward Austin English added 13.
Tennessee High (consolation) 58
Brett Golackey’s free throw with 2:20 remaining started a decisive 9-1 run for the Vikings after Drew Adams’ weak-side tip had gotten Dobyns-Bennett within 49-46 with 2:26 remaining.
Tennessee High’s Nathan Terrill led all scorers with 17 points. His 14-footer gave the Vikings a 44-39 lead with 6:20 left, and he drove past two reaching defenders for a layup to make the score 54-47 with 1:30 remaining. Austin Delph scored 13 points for Tennessee High.
Guard Malik Foreman got the last of his team-high 12 points for D-B on a 3-pointer at the final horn. Forward Connor Mitchell added 10 points for the Indians (17-11), who visit Sevier County in the first round of the region.
Tennessee High (21-11) goes to Morristown East.