Dobyns-Bennett's Tyler Ailshie (30) tries to stop a shot by Science Hill's Will Carter (10) during Friday night's Big 8 Conference matchup in Johnson City. Photo by Dave Boyd.
JOHNSON CITY — After playing second fiddle to Dobyns-Bennett in the first half, Science Hill roared back with a torrid shooting display Friday night to beat the Indians 79-67.
It solidified the Hilltoppers’ position as the No. 1 basketball team in the Big 8 Conference.
With some 2,000 onlookers oohing and ahhing at every dribble, pass, shot and rebound, the two age-old rivals were practically in a dead heat after 21½ minutes, with D-B holding a 51-50 lead.
At that juncture, the hot-shooting Hilltoppers threatened to run the score out of sight with 3-point shots.
Science Hill finished with 10 treys — four by Zach Howard and three by C.J. Good.
“We played zone defense, thinking we had a better chance to win by making (the Hilltoppers) shoot over us,’’ D-B coach Charlie Morgan said. “We figured they could beat us off the dribble. We allowed Good to get his feet set and he knocked them in.’’
D-B got eight 3-pointers of its own, with Juwan Johnson collecting five.
The game was disrupted at the start by a whiteout. Spirited Science Hill students discharged baby powder, which drifted through the air and settled on the playing surface. It left a number of spectators gasping for breath and required a 10-minute sweeping process.
D-B surprised the Hilltoppers by opening a 10-2 lead. Darius Davis drove for a layup, Adam Denison and Johnson pumped in back-to-back treys and Tyler Ailshie sank a 10-foot jumper.
Science Hill eventually clicked but D-B didn’t cool down until the last 2½ minutes of the third quarter.
The Hilltoppers blazed in 53 percent of their field goal attempts and hit 43.5 percent from behind the arc.
What perhaps set the home team in unstoppable motion was Jaylen Allen’s 70-foot desperation shot as the halftime buzzer sounded.
“I really thought that was a big momentum swing,’’ Hilltoppers coach Ken Cutlip said, “but D-B came back out in the second half and smacked us in the face with the first five points. Every time we’d try to rally, they’d score. I felt like we were Coyote and they were Roadrunner.
“We couldn’t stop (the Indians) on the defensive end in the first half but we really got after them in the second half.’’
Allen led the Hilltoppers with 23 points and Howard scored 17.
Johnson set the D-B pace with 19 points. Denison added 13.
Morgan realized the impact that Allen’s high-drama shot had.
“We gave him a clear look at the basket,’’ Morgan said. “Nobody got in his way. That was big for Science Hill.’’
The Hilltoppers enjoyed a 15- for-15 run on free throws.
“I’d like to be the coach who takes credit for that,’’ Cutlip said. “The fact is, those kids have gotten in the gym and made themselves better shooters.
“We were able to finish the season on a high note. We’ve got to build on it. You can make your season with one game. We’ll enjoy this until midnight, then our focus will be on the next game.’’
Morgan is hoping to draw something positive from the defeat. “Sometimes a loss will get you back in focus. Maybe this one will do that. I liked our energy. Science Hill has a good ballclub.’’
It was a final tuneup for both teams before next week’s District 1-AAA tournament at David Crockett. Science Hill (24-6, 13-1) will face Crockett at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. D-B (16-10, 10-4) will play Sullivan Central at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.
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