Jefferson County’s mini-stall offense cramped Science Hill’s style, but the the Hilltoppers still busted out to end the Patriots’ season.
Sophomore Tre’vonn Fields had 15 points and three steals and junior C.J. Good tallied 12 points, five assists and four rebounds as Science Hill defeated the Patriots 51-32 in a Region 1-AAA opener Saturday at the ’Topper Palace.
Science Hill (31-2) will attempt to secure a substate berth when it plays Morristown East (23-8) at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Cherokee. East defeated Tennessee High 72-53 on Tuesday.
Dobyns-Bennett and Cherokee will play Tuesday’s regional semifinal nightcap.
The Hilltoppers’ season was never in serious jeopardy against Jeffferson County, although they were held to two points in the third quarter.
Good and Fields had combined for 22 points while helping Science Hill build a 32-15 lead in the first half, which was capped by Reed Hayes’ off-balance baseline buzzer-beater.
Hayes’ basket was the result of quick teamwork after Patriots 6-foot-6 sophomore center Bryce Cusick (eight points, 11 rebounds) scored on a stick-back with five seconds left in the half.
“Jeff scores, we have a great inbounds pass to C.J., who takes one, maybe two dribbles and rifles it up the floor,” Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “And Reed Hayes has enough basketball awareness to know he doesn’t have time to square up and shoot it, and he catches it all in one motion and throws it at the basket. I’ll be honest, Reed’s one of those kids I’ve seen throughout his career here make some career shots. He just has a knack for knocking down big shots.”
So does Good, who was recognized before the game for scoring his 1,000th career point on Feb. 10. It’s a family affair for Good, who joins second cousin Gary Carter, uncle Andrel Anderson and sister Johneshia Good in the elite club.
“I didn’t want to be the one to, like, mess it up,” Good said.
Good has done it in an era of balanced scoring. Six players are capable of leading the Hilltoppers.
“It’s a lot easier,” Good said, “because you don’t have one person that you think has to score or we’re not going to win.”
Only one person — Fields — scored for Science Hill in the third quarter against Jefferson County. He scored the period’s opening basket to stretch the Hiltoppers’ lead to 19, but the Patriots were within 34-23 heading into the fourth quarter.
Science Hill’s lead never shrank to single digits. Hayes (nine points) opened the fourth quarter with an interior basket via an assist from Will Adams, and Zach Howard used a dribble to free himself for a 3-pointer from the right wing that gave Science Hill a 39-24 lead with 6:58 left. The advantage was at least 13 points the rest of the game.
“I think we had a great first half, and I think that was huge,” Cutlip said. “Honestly, I felt like we came out the third quarter and we might’ve relaxed just a little bit, and that’s the first time I’ve seen that in the postseason. I didn’t think we had the same ball pressure and intensity, and we compounded it … because we got some good looks and we just didn’t make ’em.
“We struggled offensively (in the third quarter). If you think about it, we’re probably fortunate — they scored eight — that that’s all they scored during that time.”
Cusick and Hayden Fritz each scored eight points for the Patriots, who ended the season at 18-14.
“I didn’t think we competed the way I wanted to the first half,” said Jefferson County first-year coach Chris Poore, who played at Greeneville. “We came out a little bit slow, gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and didn’t do a good job finishing when we got looks. I don’t know if it was intimidation or if it was just lack of focus on our part. But that second half, I just wanted us to come out, get after it and make our presence known. …
“This is the most pressure we’ve dealt with this year. We handled it so-so at first; thought it got better. Science Hill … can keep that pressure on you, kind of keep it coming. … It wears on a lot of young teams. It wears on any team.”
Science Hill’s defense will get a challenge from Morristown East, which features athletic, versatile 6-foot-4 wing Aaron Wheeler.
“It went from 64 to 32 (teams left in the state) tonight,” Cutlip said. “You’re happy to be part of the 32. There’s no bad teams left. …
“Aaron Wheeler may be the best athlete in our region. I mean, if not, (he is) one of them. We had a lot of trouble with him last year, and we had a lot more size. They’ve got one of the best point guards in the area in Casey Smith, who’s been starting since he was a freshman. … It’ll be a tough ballgame, obviously.”