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Science Hill captures region crown

March 5th, 2007 11:21 am by BILL LANE

KINGSPORT - Omar Wattad, a 6-foot-5 senior, is as versatile as high school basketball players come.

He can play guard, forward or center and, over the last four years, has become Science Hill's all-time leading scorer.

For all his accomplishments, Wattad has never been on a state tournament team.

"I've never been to Murfreesboro, and winning a state title would be the best way to cap off my career," he said Thursday night, clutching the Most Valuable Player trophy after the Hilltoppers defeated Dobyns-Bennett 70-58 for the Region 1-AAA Tournament championship at South.

Wattad, who'll be going to Georgetown University on an academic scholarship and walking on as a player, took a backseat to teammate Chris Smith's 20 points but made an assortment of contributions against D-B.

He scored 14 points with 5-for-10 shooting from the field, grabbed 10 rebounids, dished out five assists and played relentless defense.

"I intended to get every rebound I could," Wattad said. "Things other than points count, too. This MVP award belongs to the team.

"It is the most talented Science Hill team I've been a part of and I've said that all along. Tonight's win was revenge. We couldn't afford to lose another game to D-B."

The Indians beat the Hilltoppers twice during regular season and the teams shared the Big 9 Conference championship.

Beating a team of Science Hill's stature can be a difficult task.

"It's up to the other team to make adjustments when you've beaten them," Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. "We made ours tonight. We've regrouped. Our kids are extremely committed to what we're doing right now.

"We attacked - especially early in the game - and that's something we didn't do the other two times we played D-B. We played good defense, and that's the most improved part of our game."

Science Hill outrebounded the Indians 27-18 and outshot them from the floor 59 percent to 47 percent.

Smith, who made four of six field goal attempts, sank 12 of 13 free throws. His scoring was the propulsion the Hilltoppers needed.

Dionte Grey added 12 points to give Science Hill three players in double figures.

Coty Sensabaugh was the lone Indian to reach double digits. He scored 19 but most of those came after the issue had been settled.

"Science Hill was ready to go tonight," Sensabaugh said. "(The Hilltoppers) had a full team effort. We didn't play very good defense and they did. They kind of outran us. We made some mistakes and they capitalized on them."

Jordan Edwards, who got five rebounds, was the only D-B player to show on the boards.

Early in the week, Tribe coach Charlie Morgan sensed the challenge Science Hill would pose.

"I felt coming into the game we were in for a tough time," he said. "I watched (the Hilltoppers) a little against Tennessee High and saw that old Science Hill grit.

"Our kids didn't quit battling. They could have hung their heads, but didn't. Science Hill got a lot of baskets inside the paint. If you can't keep people from scoring inside, you're going to have a hard time winning. There weren't a lot of outside jumpers."

Both teams will appear in the TSSAA sectionals at 7 p.m. on Monday. D-B (24-8) will travel to Knox Powell (24-10). Science Hill (31-7) will host Maryville (26-8).

Maryville defeated Powell 74-55 for the Region 2 crown.

Science Hill bolted to a 13-5 lead and dominated the rest of the way.

"They make you play fast," Morgan said. "We never could catch up after falling behind like that."

Cutlip felt the presence of motivation in his team's huddle from the get-go.

"When you lose to somebody twice, it bothers you," he said. "We came out ready to play. Omar did a great job going to get the ball."

A near-capacity crowd turned out for the big game but didn't get to see D-B at its best.

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