ROGERSVILLE — Science Hill’s fast start trumped what was an otherwise sluggish performance in a Region 1-AAA semifinal win against Seymour on Monday night.
The Lady Hilltoppers opened the game on a 16-2 run and led by double digits the rest of the way in a 60-40 defeat of the Lady Eagles at Cherokee High School.
Science Hill (34-0) secured a berth in the sectional round on Saturday. It will play for the right to host one of the Sweet 16 games when it meets Morristown East (28-4) in the regional championship Wednesday night at 7. East defeated Tennessee High (27-6) in Monday’s nightcap.
Seymour, which ended the season with a 19-14 record, cut Science Hill’s lead to 10 points twice early in the third quarter. But sophomore post Gabby Lyon scored six of her 11 points during the period to help Science Hill stretch the lead to 46-29 by the end of period.
“We should’ve gone to her more in the first half, but we didn’t do a good job with it,” said Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell, whose second-ranked team has won 58 of its last 59 games. “In the second half we were able to get the ball to her and she was able to take advantage inside a little bit more. That’s a strength of ours. Gabby’s a strong player and she finishes well inside.”
Juniors Shy Copney and Enjelica Reid led the Lady ’Toppers with 12 points apiece. Copney made three 3-pointers for the second straight game, including two in the fourth quarter that helped build the lead to as much as 25 points. Reid scored on the interior via one- and two-dribble moves and an assist from Lyon, in transition and on a stick-back.
Barnwell wasn’t exactly giddy with the overall performance.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well, and missed a lot of easy shots around the basket,” Barnwell said. “And defensively, I thought at times we didn’t have the same intensity that we did in stretches. At this point in the season, it’s all about moving on. Our kids did what they needed to do to get a 20-point win.
“We’re obviously going to have to play better on Wednesday, gonna have to shoot the ball better and finish possessions a little bit better. And we’re all gonna have to step up defensively and do a better job.”
Throw in free throw shooting, too. Science Hill was 8 of 21 at the foul line.
Seymour made 16 of 23 free throws, although coach Brandi Stallings was left to lament the early foul trouble of three starters, including point guard Jordan Ballard.
“Three kids with three fouls in the first half … and Jordan Ballard, my senior, picked up two in the first minute and a half of the game,” Stallings said. “So we had to pull her, and she is our floor leader. We go as she goes. …
“My kids could’ve folded the tent, and 10 games ago they would have. We’ve grown up a lot.”
Sophomore point guard Tianna Tarter and freshman point guard Keisha Gregory scored seven points apiece for Science Hill. Tarter scored five points in the first 4 1/2 minutes, including a 3-pointer off the dribble that made the score 12-2.
“The bottom line is we won and we’re moving on to the next round,” Barnwell said, “and get to play a substate game … hopefully at home if we can play better Wednesday.”
Stallings wouldn’t be surprised if Science Hill’s playing beyond Saturday.
“They’re extremely talented,” Stallings said. “They’re the best team that I’ve seen. I fully expect to look up and see them in the championship game of the state tournament. If they’re not, I’ll be surprised.”
Kasey Norman and Lexi Justus scored 12 points each for Seymour.
Morristown East 63
Tennessee High 53
Jade Hale’s 3-pointer gave Morristown East a 52-33 lead with 6:15 remaining, but the Lady Vikings didn’t quit.
McKenzie Dickson scored nine of her 13 points in the fourth quarter, and Keely Easterling (12 points) grabbed a turnover and made a 3-pointer from the left corner to cut East’s lead to 56-51 with 59 seconds remaining.
Hale (12 points) and Gaby Gilmore (17 points) responded to what was Easterling’s fourth trey by each making a pair of free throws to preserve victory.
Tennessee High’s tireless, athletic point guard, Ashlee Mitchell, led all scorers with 21 points before fouling out with four minutes remaining.
Jordan Hayes and Kendi King scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the Lady Hurricane.