KINGSPORT — Dobyns-Bennett’s girls basketball team picked a fine time to play one of its best games of the season.
A dominant effort in the second quarter helped the Lady Indians deal Big 8 Conference-leading Science Hill its first loss in league play, 74-44 on Thursday night.
The victory pulls the Tribe (15-5, 8-2) within one game of the Lady Hilltoppers (17-5, 9-1) in the Big 8 standings with four conference games to go.
“We just want to come out and show everybody in our conference that we’re the team to beat,” said D-B senior Megan Devine, who totaled 26 points.
Down 16-12 after a contentious first quarter that featured eight lead changes, Science Hill pulled within 18-14 before D-B went on a 25-5 onslaught that closed the half.
“That may be the best half we’ve played,” Tribe coach Roger France said.
The Lady Indians led by double digits for the entire second half, widening their advantage in the last minutes to the final lopsided margin.
“Give them credit, they shot the ball extremely well,” Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell said of the Indians. “If we’d played even close to as good as we normally do, it would’ve been a tough night.”
No Lady ’Topper scored in double digits. Morgan Knack had a team-high nine points, all on 3-pointers in the second half. The Science Hill starters were outscored 58-30 by their D-B counterparts.
Barnwell knew his team faced a size disadvantage against the likes of Devine and Juli Osborne. The plan was to press in full-court then go to a matchup zone and pack the interior to give Science Hill a fighting chance on the glass. D-B hit five 3-pointers in the first half, though, forcing the ’Toppers out of their zone.
Devine was honored before the game for achievements in two sports. Devine recently reached the 1,000-point plateau in basketball, and was recognized for receiving the Gatorade player of the year award in volleyball for the state of Tennessee. Devine helped the Lady Indians to their first-ever state title in volleyball, and is the first D-B player to receive the state Gatorade honor.
The Lady Indians’ Juli Osborne scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half. Makenzie Lilley added 10 points.
D-B still has one more head-to-head meeting with Science Hill. Tennessee High and Sullivan Central, which are scheduled to play tonight if they’re not snowed out, are just two games behind the ’Toppers.
France tried to keep the victory in perspective.
“It’s a big win for us, but every conference game is very important,” said D-B coach Roger France. “It doesn’t matter who it is or where you’re at in the standings. You’ve got to take care of business.”
The Lady Indians learned harsh lessons about not overlooking any opponent in recent years, incurring back-to-back season-ending losses in the opening round of the conference tournament after enjoying significant success in the regular season.
This version of the D-B girls team went through some struggles in late December.
“I didn’t think we were getting the best effort out of everybody,” France said. “Now they’re playing as hard as they can play. I think that’s the big deal. Play as hard and as physical as you can play.”