The Hilltoppers fought and scrapped, but the Wildcats were the better team. Oak Ridge earned an 84-66 win in a Class AAA sectional basketball game at The New Gym on Monday night.
It was a season-ending loss for the Hilltoppers (32-4) while the Wildcats (27-5) are headed to Murfreesboro for the first time since 2017.
“Our effort was good, but they just finished and got the ball in deep,” said Science Hill head coach Ken Cutlip. “What had carried this team all year was our ability to defend, alter shots, and get people to miss shots. (The Wildcats) were able to get deep and make shots.”
And on the other end, Science Hill wasn’t finishing. The Hilltoppers shot just 37 percent through the first three quarters while Oak Ridge made 63 percent of its attempts from the field.
“We lost the game in the first three quarters,” said Cutlip.
Oak Ridge had two dominant forces in the paint with Jonathan Milloway and Jeremy Miller combining for 37 points and 18 rebounds.
On the perimeter — or more accurately knifing his way to the basket — Isaiah Johnson totaled 22 points.
It was one tough trio.
“I’m proud of all three of those guys,” said Oak Ridge head coach Aaron Green. “Jeremy Miller had been struggling the last three games, but he came out of it tonight. Isaiah Johnson is our only senior and he played like it tonight. And Jonathan Milloway’s presence inside was big.”
Green said he turned his players loose for this road matchup.
“The last three or four games we haven’t played well offensively, and I think I was part of the problem,” said Green. “We were too methodical. For this preparation we turned them loose. Not only did they play aggressively, they played well.”
Milloway finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, 11 on the defensive end. Miller had 20 points and six rebounds. Johnson added four steals.
Jonathan Stewart totaled 13 points with nine of them coming on fourth-quarter treys after the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Oak Ridge made only 22 of 40 attempts from the foul line. Science Hill was only 19 of 32.
Oak Ridge broke open a close game with a run midway through the second quarter and took a 44-34 lead into the locker room. The Wildcats came out strong in the third quarter, beginning with a 15-6 run that greatly diminished Science Hill’s chances.
SCIENCE HILL LEADERS
Griffin Ballard was the best player on the court for the Hilltoppers. He knocked down five treys and finished with 20 points and three assists.
Jordan McLoyd came on strong late and totaled 18 points and six rebounds. Amare Redd finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and four steals.
“I hurt tremendously for our four seniors: Griffin, Jake (Matherne), Jordan, Hunter (Phillips),” said Cutlip. “They’ve done everything I’ve asked. They’ve led by example and they are true warriors.”