It was almost shades of the past Tuesday night. Boone (17-9) eliminated Sullivan South 65-60 in a mild upset. Top-seeded Science Hill (25-6) escaped ambush against fired-up Crockett, the No. 8 seed, by rallying in the second half for a 79-63 victory.
Boone, qualifying for the region tourney the first time in six years, snapped a 56-56 tie when Travis Keever converted a three-point play, dropped in another free throw and drove for a layup. Kevin Connell and Jordan Gray combined for six points to close it out.
“Keever took over late in the game,’’ Boone coach Ryan Arnold said. “He hit some big baskets and dished a pass behind his back to Connell, who made an unbelievable shot.’’
Boone cashed in mostly on inside shots while South backed up for seven 3-point goals.
“We’re trying to attack the inside more and taking fewer outside shots,’’ Arnold said. “I believe South wanted us to shoot from longer range tonight.’’
After a shaky start, the Trailblazers settled down. They committed just three floor mistakes in the second half.
“We had a bunch of turnovers in the first half,’’ Arnold said. “Things such as the walks were the result of nerves.’’
Connell, playing low post after making the transition from point guard, led the Trailblazers with 20 points. Gray added 17 and Keever hit 12.
“Connell will play anywhere you ask him to,’’ Arnold said. “He might even coach the team one night. He can’t jump over a piece of paper but he knows how to use his body.’’
Boone shot 50 percent from the field overall and sank 60 percent of its floor shots after intermission.
Andrew Pickwell, who stirred the masses with a fast-break slam dunk in the final second of the opening half, was South’s leading scorer with 15 points. Logan Blair got 13.
South failed to defend and it was costly. The Rebels had just one steal and repeatedly allowed Boone to penetrate for inside shots.
“Defensively, we didn’t get enough stops in the second half to win,’’ South coach Mark Pendleton said. “Sixty points — that’s enough to win on most nights.
“Boone got a lot of looks for easy shots in the second half. We’d like to be moving on but we’re not. We’re very disappointed. We have enjoyed coaching these seven seniors. They are outstanding young men.’’
South (14-12) had beaten Boone twice in regular season. “(The Rebels) played well in both of those games,’’ Arnold said. “We’re two teams that are pretty much evenly matched.’’
Science Hill — a team that has lost only once since the last week of December — had its hands full with Crockett, which sprang to a 7-0 lead and was ahead 32-26 at halftime.
It took an ironman’s performance by sophomore Jaylen Allen to pull it out. He scored 34 points, leaped for 10 rebounds and had four steals.
“Coach (Ken) Cutlip made it personal for me in the locker room at halftime,’’ Allen said. “He thought I was letting the team down. We came out with better intensity, stepped up and played defense. We got Crockett out of its rhythm.’’
Cutlip said guarding Zack Garland, Crockett’s 7-foot center, was quite a task. Playing only 21 minutes, the giant scored 25 points, blocked three shots and claimed 10 rebounds. Three of his 11 field goals were awesome dunks.
“There’s not a team in our league that can stop him,’’ Cutlip said. “You can’t once he gets the ball. You’ve got to guard the other four players to keep him from getting it.’’
Crockett coach Richard Tarlton said his team didn’t get many breaks after outplaying the Hilltoppers for 16 minutes. “We’ve earned the respect of all teams in our conference. Zack doesn’t get a fair shake — he takes a beating. I was very pleased with the way our kids battled. We fought, scrapped and generally outplayed Science Hill in the first half.’’
Crockett finished the season 8-17.
With both Boone and Science Hill earning region berths, two more are at stake tonight. Tennessee High plays Volunteer at 6 and Dobyns-Bennett faces Sullivan Central at 7:30.