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Tennessee High knocks off Dobyns-Bennett

Bill Lane • Feb 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — It was supposed to be Big 9 Conference champion Science Hill and host Dobyns-Bennett meeting for the District 1-AAA boys basketball tournament championship next week.

However, Tennessee High failed to follow the script Saturday night, upsetting D-B 55-50 in the semifinals with an unyielding defense.

Vikings coach Roby Witcher described the win as “beautiful.’’

The Vikings (22-9), who split two regular-season games with Science Hill, will face the Hilltoppers (26-4) at 7:30 Tuesday for the title.

Science Hill defeated Sullivan South 62-50 as versatile 6-foot-5 guard Josh Odem stood even taller when the Hilltoppers needed clutch scoring.

Thus, D-B (23-6) and South (16-15) will be matched in the 6 o’clock consolation game before Science Hill and Tennessee High go on stage.

All four teams have qualified for the Region 1 tournament along with Morristown East, Cocke County, Jefferson County and Morristown West from District 2.

Tennessee High’s big three — Corey Young, Tré Webb and Mason Canty — threw in a dozen points apiece and the Vikings’ aggressive defense forced the Indians to play totally out of character.

“We came down here having been beaten twice by (the Indians) and we won on D-B’s home floor,’’ Witcher said. “Our kids seized the opportunity when it was at hand.

“We guarded the heck out of them. This win was beautiful. Against D-B you’ve got to pick your poison — concentrate on defending either inside or outside. We tried to do as much of both as we could. We defended well on the perimeter and in the post.’’

In their last meeting, D-B won handily by hitting 61 percent from the field. That didn’t happen this time.

“We made just a few more shots than they did,’’ Witcher said. “We got some putbacks and blocked out well.’’

Justin Sylvester was D-B’s leading scorer with 11 points, followed by Ashlon Adams and Dustin McConnell with 10 each. Jordan Edwards suffered a shoulder injury and left the game with four minutes remaining.

“We shot very poorly,’’ D-B coach Charlie Morgan said. “We could not get over the hump. You usually play well when you shoot well, and we didn’t. We didn’t have the movement against Tennessee High’s zone that we needed.

“The big difference in the game was just before halftime. We were on a 13-2 run and had tied the score. We then came down the floor and jacked one up. Before we realized it, we were down by five points at halftime. We should have taken the last shot of the quarter. You’ve got to have a good basketball IQ to play.’’

D-B trailed by as many as 12 points but closed the gap to two on a 3-pointer by Todd Halvorsen with 2:25 to go in the game. The Indians’ post defense became porous without Edwards, who had blocked three shots in a one-minute span.

South was in contention against heavily favored Science Hill until a third-quarter slump sent the Rebels reeling,

Tyler Ashworth’s tip-in with 5:33 left to play in the quarter brought South within one point. Science Hill responded by hitting 15 of the next 17 points despite having Odem, its leader, on the bench in foul trouble.

“Chris Smith and Larry Smith took charge,’’ said Odem, who scored 18 points. “They stepped up the intensity. Foul trouble happens and I can’t let it get to me.’’

Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip had praise for the Rebels.

“South has continued to get better,’’ he said. “They’ve played their best ball down the stretch. We had some opportunities to open it up and they just wouldn’t go away.’’

Again, Cutlip pointed out that unselfishness is his team’s greatest asset. “Our players are a coach’s dream from that aspect.’’

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