JONESBOROUGH — No matter what type of record they have in the regular season, Dobyns-Bennett and Tennessee High take pride in being Region 1-AAA basketball tournament fixtures.
Both qualified again Thursday night for TSSAA advancement with impressive wins in the District 1 tourney at David Crockett High School.
D-B (17-10) played flawless defense in the second half to oust longtime rival Sullivan Central 63-49. The Indians were not charged with a single foul after intermission.
Tennessee High (20-10) displayed ideal offensive efficiency in beating sluggish Volunteer 81-38. The Vikings, averaging just 57 points per game coming in, scored their biggest total of the season by shooting 64 percent of from the field, and going 8-of-10 behind the 3-point arc arc.
D-B had a slow start and fast finish. Tyler Ailshie, Juwan Johnson, Adam Denison and Darius Davis combined for 51 points and their scoring was more than Central’s entire team output.
Central took the battle to the Indians early with Nathan Vannoy and Taylor Winchell bombing away.
D-B heated up in the last two minutes of the first half to take a 33-32 lead and never relinquished it. Ailshie hit a 3-pointer, Derrick Steele sank a jumper and Ailshie beat the buzzer with a layup to close the half.
“The one-point lead helped our confidence because we’d trailed most of the first half,’’ D-B coach Charlie Morgan said. “We were a little tight at the start and I was concerned that the kids might be thinking about the three straight losses we’d had. It takes mental effort to bring a team to the forefront in tournament play.’’
The Cougars (10-15), who finished with 27 turnovers, opened the second half with eight scoreless possessions and Johnson’s outside shooting enabled D-B to pull away.
“Juwan has been doing that lately,’’ Morgan said. “If he gets a good look at the basket, he can knock the 3-point shot down. He’ll get better as a shooter when he becomes stronger.’’
The Cougars committed 10 fouls in the second half, while D-B had none.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen,’’ Morgan said. “You play defense with your feet. After some 60 practices and nearly 30 games, it finally hit home.’’
Ailshie, who led D-B with 17 points, explained his team’s turnaround.
“We tried to man up and play better defense,’’ he said. “We knew we’d have to play our game. We didn’t want to lose four in a row.’’
The Tennessee High/Volunteer game was over before it began. Hot met cold as the Vikings bolted to a 12-0 lead. While everything THS tried seemingly worked, Volunteer couldn’t buy a basket.
“We don’t care who scores,’’ THS coach Roby Witcher said. “We usually don’t have prolific scorers. We played loose tonight. We got off to a good lead and built on it. I never anticipated this. Volunteer had played us close twice.
“Our guys came out prepared and stayed with it the whole game. They want to play as long as they can and keep the season going.’’
Volunteer (7-18) shot poorly, hitting just 38 percent from the floor.
“We had a great summer and were very optimistic about the season before Cameron Trent got hurt,’’ Falcons coach Todd Whittemore said. “It’s very frustrating to have six seniors playing and go out losing by 43 points. Our locker room has never been down like this in the 10 years I’ve coached at Volunteer.’’
D-B will face Tennessee High at 6 and Science Hill will play Daniel Boone at 7:30 in Saturday’s district semifinals.
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