The Bucs pulled away to an 81-63 victory over five-time Hardee's champion Unicoi County in the first game of the tournament. After its record-setting season on the football field, Crockett romped to an 81-44 win against Claiborne.
In other quarterfinals, Volunteer beat Sullivan South on a last-second shot while Daniel Boone's game with South-Doyle had extended into double overtime at press time.
In the tournament opener, Kaleb Meredith led five University High players in double-digits with 20 points. Marshall Fleenor ended with 17 points, followed by Jake Hubbard with 13 and Colin Daniel and Mason Broome with 11 each.
"It feels good to win over that kind of program, which has had so much success in this tournament," Penley said. "One of the things I'm most proud to see is to have five guys in double figures. That shows how our guys shared the basketball. I thought our defense really picked up in the second half, too."
Ahead by just three points at the half, the Bucs outscored the Blue Devils 20-2 over the first six and a half minutes of the third quarter and never looked back.
Brock Thompson was Unicoi County's leading scorer with 20 points. Brett Lingerfelt tallied 17 and Gavin Casey netted 14.
David Crockett 81, Claiborne 44
The Pioneers raced out to a 42-19 halftime lead and weren't seriously challenged against the overmatched Bulldogs.
Donta Hackler had a game-high 19 points to lead Crockett with Ayden Begley netting 16, including four shots behind the 3-point arc. It was the first game of the season for Hackler, who returned to the basketball team on Monday morning after starring on the football field.
"We're just trying to bring the same effort and intensity as we did in football," Hackler said. "I just have the attitude I'm going to do everything I can to help this team win. We just want to have the same hunger as we did in football — and we did that tonight."
Eric Dunbar had 14 points and Mack Hensley contributed 12 in the Crockett win.
Kade Beeler had 20 points to lead Claiborne.
Volunteer 55, Sullivan South 54
Chance Johnson hit a game-winning 3-point shot at the buzzer as the Falcons rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat the Rebels.
Volunteer trailed 30-16 at halftime, but closed to 45-40 at the end of the third quarter. The Falcons kept pushing, eventually taking the lead and leading to the last-second heroics.
Johnson paced Volunteer with 19 points, followed by Brody Hunley with 16 points. Chase Bowery was South's leading scorer with 14 points and Ben Diamond wound up with 13.