KINGSPORT — Will Adams, Science Hill’s 5-foot-10 freshman guard, is mature way beyond his years.
The 15-year-old standout answered the call every time the Hilltoppers needed something to happen Thursday night and led them to a pulsating 63-58 boys basketball victory over Dobyns-Bennett.
He scored 18 points, including an 8-for-9 performance at the foul line.
Adams’ take-charge play enabled the Hilltoppers (19-6, 9-1) to grab the Big 8 Conference lead and spill D-B (14-7, 9-2) into second place. They’ll meet again Feb. 12 in a makeup game.
“We won by boxing out, hitting free throws and playing defense,’’ Adams said. “I felt confident when I had the ball. If there was a spot open, I tried to get there and make a shot.’’
Adams scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter against Tennessee High recently.
He not only plays like a veteran, Adams talks like one as well. “We’re on top in the Big 8 and the easiest thing for us to do is fall,’’ he said. “We’ve just got to keep going and do the best we can.’’
Adams got help from two other underclassmen.
Hunter Leveau, a 6-3 sophomore, scored 13 points by setting the early pace. Will Carter, a 6-1 junior, rallied the Hilltoppers from a seven-point deficit with his deadly outside shooting late in the game. He finished with four treys — including three in succession — and 13 points.
“Those three guys stepped up in a tremendous way,’’ Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “Carter provided the turning point with his 3-point goals. We called a set for him and he connected. We know if he makes one, he may go on a tear. He has the green light to shoot.’’
Their offensive efforts offset the double-figure scoring of D-B’s Adam Denison (19 points), Derek Steele (10) and Ben Riggs (10).
It was at the foul line in the last minute that Science Hill decided the game with an 8-for-8 display.
“At a critical stage of the game, we missed three layups and (the Hilltoppers) went back to the other end of the floor for three treys,’’ D-B coach Charlie Morgan said. “We didn’t shoot well but stayed in there. We had a chance to win but couldn’t seal the deal. We failed to get some needed stops on defense.’’
D-B will play Tuesday night at Volunteer. “We’ll find out what we’re made of down there,’’ Morgan said. “You can learn a lot from a loss.’’
The Hilltoppers broke on top 22-15 at the outset of the second quarter but D-B tied the score. Still, Science Hill managed a 30-25 halftime lead.
To the enjoyment of a crowd numbering about 2,500, the teams played at a fast pace with a strong physical presence.
Just after the second half began, D-B closed a six-point gap to just one on the scoring of Denison, Steele and Riggs. Denison’s two free throws put D-B ahead 39-38 with 1:43 to go in the third quarter. A see-saw affair ensued.
Denison’s two 3-pointers opening the fourth quarter sparked a D-B surge. The Indians led 53-46 with 5:08 remaining.
That’s when Carter stepped out to hit the bull’s-eye with his three consecutive high-arc shots from 25 feet.
Science Hill was on top 59-55 after Zack Howard sank a pair of free throws with 28 seconds to go. Denison refused to let it end, sinking a 3-pointer from behind the circle nine seconds later.
Adams clinched the victory by making two free throws with 16 seconds left to play for a 61-58 lead. Leveau added two insurance free throws five seconds from the buzzer.
“This group shows a tremendous amount of poise,’’ Cutlip said. “They don’t get rattled.’’
Science Hill outscored D-B 13-9 at the foul line.
“We had to have every one of those,’’ Cutlip said.