KINGSPORT — Derrick Steele unearthed another piece of magic against Morristown East on Thursday night. This time, however, it failed to produce a win.
Steele’s late 3-pointer accounted for naught as Dobyns-Bennett fell 54-52 in a non-conference tilt against East at the Buck Van Huss Dome. It’s the Tribe’s second consecutive defeat ahead of tonight’s regular-season climax at Science Hill.
“Man, I’m telling you. It’s a nail-biter every time we play with these guys,” Hurricanes first-year coach Dag Berquist said.
Steele, a junior guard, finished a difficult layup in traffic as time expired in overtime to deny East (17-9) earlier in the season. Thursday, he sank a deep trey with 27.2 seconds left to tie the game at 52.
But the Indians (16-9), like most of the night, failed to get a stop at the other end. Antonio Miranda was the unlikely hero for the Hurricanes, slipping underneath for a lay-in off an out-of-bounds play.
D-B had three seconds to get a look, but Juwan Johnson’s heave from just inside the timeline fell short.
“That was a big shot,” Berquist said of Steele’s. “It wasn’t like it was uncontested. He just drained it. I was worried.”
“We ran one of our usual sets,” the coach added. “They switched on the screen and left our post guy wide open. Thank God they didn’t call the walk.”
D-B, ragged on both ends for much of the game, led only once — briefly during the second quarter following a 9-0 run. The Tribe trailed by nine points, the largest margin of the night, with six minutes to play in the third period.
A 7-0 surge trimmed the deficit to two points. Though the contest remained tight the rest of the way, the Indians never were able to find an answer for East.
“We’re just not playing very good basketball right now,” Tribe coach Charlie Morgan said. “We are not getting anything done offensively or defensively. And that starts with the coach.”
Austin Gardner, who scored 34 in the earlier game, finished with 13 points this time for East. Casey Smith added 11.
Sophomore post Aaron Wheeler, who this time last year was undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma, finished with a game-high 16 points.
“Last year, he’s at St. Jude in Memphis with cancer,” Berquist said. “It’s a miracle that he’s alive and playing with us.”
Meanwhile, the guard duo of Steele and Darius Davis led the Indians, collecting 13 points apiece. Johnson had nine and Adam Denison seven.
“The way we were playing early (in the season) is the way I thought we would be playing now,” Morgan said. “Maybe it’s because it’s late in the season and the focus isn’t there. I’ve seen this happen to teams before.
“Hopefully we can show up and do a much better job tomorrow night. It won’t be easy at the Palace.”
Earlier, the Tribe (18-6) sent a trio of ladies out in style on senior night with a 59-49 win.
Junior Haley Clark hit consecutive 3-pointers to close the third period. She added another to open the fourth as D-B pulled away in the last five minutes.
Post Hillary Gray finished with 15 points for D-B. Megan Devine, a senior recognized along with Avery Blair and Blaine Frohlich, added 13. Clark closed with 11.
Kayla Orrick had 15 points for East (12-11). Megan Blaylock had nine and Sam Hale eight.