KINGSPORT — Early afternoon scheduling lent an intercollegiate feel to Saturday’s non-conference high school tilt at Dobyns-Bennett’s Buck Van Huss Dome.
In the end, it was Morristown West that nearly benefited from “the old college try.”
Malachi Horton scored all 13 of his points in the second half — nine during the final four minutes of play — but the Indians survived a Trojans comeback effort, 54-45.
“I felt that Dobyns-Bennett got a little complacent and their energy level went down a little and we took advantage of it,” said West coach Derek Creech, whose squad trailed 40-17 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter but pulled within five on Horton’s three-point play with less than a minute to play.
The Indians finally stepped up their defensive effort, executed better on offense and got a combined 4-for-4 showing from A.J. Anderson and Thomas Palmer at the free throw line over the final 45 seconds to pull out the victory.
“We had too many unforced turnovers today and I’m very disappointed with that. We don’t normally do that,” said Tribe coach Charlie Morgan. “We let them back in the game. I felt like down the stretch we did a couple of things OK but we’ve got to get better.”
Morgan jokingly blamed the recent snow for his squad’s late lapse. A more likely factor was an inflated sense of security derived from having held the Trojans to two points in the first quarter.
That early dominance was misleading. Horton, who scored 15 in West’s earlier 57-53 win over D-B at Morristown, was benched during the first quarter as penance for having missed a Friday practice session.
Creech freed Horton from the bench in the second quarter, but the kid’s motor really didn’t get running until late in the third. By the time Horton hit the second of back-to-back 3-pointers to trim the lead to 48-39, the Indians seemed downright surprised.
“They started believing there, and defensively we didn’t do what we needed to do,” Morgan said. “We left the ball unguarded there a couple of times, which means somebody didn’t communicate. We can’t have that going down the stretch.”
A definite bright spot for the Indians was the play of post Connor Mitchell, who led D-B with 18 points and 13 rebounds. He also blocked four shots.
“I thought he really helped get us started. His play was really good. We look to him in the post and we want him to finish in the post. When he does, he makes us a better basketball team all around,” Morgan said. “He works hard on the defensive end and that’s what we need to do in all five spots.”
Palmer added 10 points for the Indians (14-4). Makale Foreman chipped in nine.
Hunter Nies and Josh Black scored seven points apiece for the Trojans (7-11).
In the girls’ game, Madi Kilby hit some big perimeter shots, Sasha Morrisette ran the floor for easy layups and the Lady Indians prevailed 57-46.
Kilby, who finished with 14 points, hit the first of her four trifectas to initiate scoring for the Lady Indians (13-5).
Morrisette led the Tribe with 19 points. Seven of her buckets were collected on the fast break — six were layups, one was a short pull-up jumper. While capable of getting transition started on her own, she also got full-floor assists from teammates Alex Anderson and Courtney Depew.
The Lady Trojans won 60-42 in the teams’ earlier meeting in Morristown.
“We’re not 18 points better than them by any stretch of the imagination,” said West coach Johnny Galyon. “I thought their guards played a lot better than ours. I don’t think we performed out top.”
Morristown trailed 30-20 at the half. The Lady Trojans (13-7) played some effective man-to-man defense after intermission, battling to 31-all on Christina Zimmerman’s transition layup with 2:13 remaining in the third period.
They dropped back into a zone and D-B got back-to-back trifectas from Cydnee Morrisette and Kilby. Sasha Morrisette’s transition bucket had the Tribe up again by eight with 25 seconds showing.
West tied it up again at 44 on an Abbe Craine free throw with 4:12 left. The Tribe got two possessions’ worth of breathing room off a Sasha Morrisette breaking bucket and another by Depew off a Cydnee Morrisette feed. D-B stayed aloft in the final stretch with a 7-for-10 showing at the free throw line.
“It’s a good win for us. That was the first game we’ve played in a week. We hadn’t practiced in a couple of days and I was a little concerned about us,” said D-B coach Roger France, who got 13 points from Cydnee Morrisette.
Craine led the Lady Trojans with 13 points and Zimmerman scored 11.