Jake Matherne’s ability to pass out of a deep post to cutting guards and his craftiness to score off the backboard with his left hand was huge for the Hilltoppers. He was the Hilltoppers’ high scorer, netting 16 points.
“Jake was effective scoring for us tonight and he didn’t try to force it,” Science Hill head coach Ken Cutlip said. “We did a good job sharing the basketball. We pushed the ball and we had a lot of opportunities.”
Said Gate City head coach Scott Vermillion: “When (Matherne) caught it deep, he really hurt us. I was telling our guys that we made some mistakes that could have kept us in the game. At the end of the day, they’re a good team that has all the pieces of being a really good team.
“Matherne is hard to guard down low being that good of a passer and being left-handed.”
Gate City star guard Bradley Dean poured in a game-high 30 points, but that wouldn’t be enough in the end. Dean, surprisingly, did not net a single 3-pointer in the game.
“Against a team like Gate City, it all starts on the defensive end,” Cutlip said. “Dean is amazing, but they’re more than Dean and they’re better than when we played them the first time.”
The Blue Devils cut what was once an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter down to five with 2:28 left to play. However, Science Hill did a good job closing out the game and making free throws to hold off a hard-charging opponent.
“This is a good thing for us, especially being on a three-game week,” Cutlip said. “This is how you prepare for postseason play. This was back-to-back nights and our kids played hard last night. For our kids to dig deep and get a win is a big step to being successful in the postseason.”
The ’Toppers led just about the whole way and the closest Gate City got to seizing the lead back after giving it up early in the game was at the end of the first half.
Science Hill held a 28-18 advantage with four minutes left, but GC closed on an 11-4 run and had it to 30-29 before Jordan McLoyd hit a runner to end the half.
McLoyd and Griffin Ballard each finished the game with 12 points.
Andrew Hensley scored 11 points for Gate City, but did not make a bucket in the second half.
“They guarded (Andrew) a little tighter and they did a good job with that,” Vermillion said. “He needs to power through some of that stuff, though. He’s experiencing a little bit of what Jon Compton did after we beat D-B and teams guarded him a bit differently.”
It has been quite some time since Gate City was beaten by the same team twice in one season.
“We didn’t make too many adjustments from the first time,” Vermillion said. “We try to focus on our league and we will use this game to get better. They play similar to us in the ways that they want to push the ball and get it in certain spots.
“This prepares us for something we might see later. We always play in the Arby’s and teams like D-B and Science Hill to try to prepare us for something we might see coming out of Region A or Region B. We do this for a reason.”
Science Hill 64, Campbell County 58
The Lady ’Toppers scored the first nine points of the game and held Campbell County scoreless until 3:48 left in the opening period.
The Lady Cougars fought back for most of the second quarter and, after falling behind, outscored Science Hill 28-20 to pull within one point at halftime.
A big turning point occurred when Gardner-Webb signee Alasia Smith was tabbed with a technical foul with 3:31 left in the third quarter, bringing her foul total to four.
She had to ride the bench for the rest of the period, but the Lady Hilltoppers responded with an 8-4 quarter-ending spurt for a 48-38 lead.
“Our kids know that when one player goes out, it’s next person up,” Science Hill head coach Scott Whaley said. “They’ve been like that all year. They’ve been resilient and stepped up in big spots for us.”
The Lady Cougars did cut the deficit from what was 52-40 in the fourth quarter down to one point at 3:19 to go. However, Smith was able to convert an “and-one” bucket with 2:55 that put the game out of reach. Smith led the Lady ’Toppers with 15 points while Jasmin Myers had 13. Jeila Greenlee and Erin Egerbrecht each netted 10.
Alyssa Brown had 18 to lead Campbell County while Emily Ellison netted 17. Campbell County made 11 3-pointers on the evening.
“(Campbell County) coach (Brad) Honeycutt does a great job,” Whaley said. “We play them every summer down at William Blount and I knew this was going to be a tough game. This is a great contrast of styles and it will greatly help both teams come tournament time.”