Enter Jake Matherne.
The Hilltoppers’ 6-foot-5 junior had a night to remember at the expense of Volunteer in a 79-49 win. Matherne cut loose for a career-high 24 points while also adding 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
He’s becoming a big-time paint threat, something the Hilltoppers sorely need.
“He needs to be a little more consistent, but at times he is dominant,” said Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip. “He’s done a really good job on the boards all year. He just needs to be more consistent scoring. ... A lot of the credit goes to the rest of our players. I think they were doing a good job of getting Jake the ball in the right spots where he can be effective. He’s really stepping up and helping us.”
Matherne had only six points at halftime but was unstoppable at times in the third quarter, totaling 13 points.
“The big emphasis all week from practice was getting the ball down in the post, not just to me but to Hunter (Phillips) and Drew (Morrison) as well,” Matherne said. “I think our guards did a great job of that.”
Matherne said it was a fun evening.
“Any time you get it going like that, it’s a thrill,” he said.
Science Hill (8-9, 3-1) moved past Volunteer (5-10, 2-1) into second place in the Big 7 Conference.
FALLING BEHIND EARLY
Science Hill scored the first nine points of the game, and Volunteer never found its footing. The Hilltoppers led 18-8 at the end of the first quarter, and stretched the lead to 32-14 by halftime.
“I thought our kids battled and I think we played extremely hard,” said Falcons coach Mike Poe. “I told our players before the game we had to get off to a good start. The one thing about playing Science Hill with their depth is making them have to keep their front-line players in longer. We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make at the right time.”
Science Hill got a nice game from Kendle Cutlip, who knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points.
Will Stevens also put together a strong effort with 11 points and five assists. Laithen Shingledecker also had five assists.
For Volunteer, Eli Churchwell had four 3-pointers and totaled 16 points. Chance Johnson contributed 11.
SMITH LIGHTS IT UP
Alasia Smith, Science Hill’s athletic forward, dropped a career-high 33 points on Volunteer (4-9, 0-3) in the Lady Hilltoppers’ 69-36 win.
Smith seemingly scored at will, totaling six points in the first quarter, then nine, eight and 10 in the next three.
Smith said a recent tournament convinced her she needed to play at a higher level.
“When we came back from Charlotte, I felt like I needed to step up my game, and I needed to take it to the rim,” she said.
Coach Scottie Whaley said Smith is a reflection of the steady play of her teammates.
“Her and our whole team have really played well the last three weeks,” he said. “We’re extremely unselfish.”
Science Hill (15-2, 3-1) was ready from the opening tip, slapping Volunteer with a 17-0 deficit by blending efficient offense with a refuse-to-give-in defense.
It took Volunteer almost five minutes to score, but the Lady Falcons did a nice job of steadying themselves. They finished the first quarter strong and trailed 20-8.
Volunteer did a nice job of staying competitive. The Lady Falcons were knocking at the door of getting inside double digits, but Science Hill had answers.
It was 41-24 at halftime, and the Lady Hilltoppers expanded their lead to 24 points, 56-32, at the end of three periods.
Symantha Fugate complemented Smith’s effort with 11 points. Jeila Greenlee added eight points and Erin Egerbrecht totaled seven.
For Volunteer, Kennedy Knittle had 14 points while Atlee Dean contributed 13.