KINGSPORT — With two seconds left in regulation and the score tied at 41, Ryan Headrick stepped to the foul line to shoot two free throws.
As Headrick took aim, the Dobyns-Bennett student section shook the bleachers on the visitors’ side of Sullivan South’s gym, trying to rattle a player who was riding a streak of 34 consecutive made free throws, including six in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s Big 8 Conference showdown.
The Rebels had the Indians right where they wanted them.
And then Headrick clanked two consecutive foul shots, watched as a desperation heave by D-B missed its mark and collapsed into the bench in agony as his team readied for overtime.
“Honestly, I wanted to cry when I missed those two free throws,” Headrick said. “But I knew I had to step it up. I couldn’t end it like that.”
Fortunately for Headrick, he had four more minutes to find redemption, and he made the most of them. The senior guard scored six of his team’s 14 points in overtime to carry the Rebels to a 55-47 victory over the Indians.
Earlier, South’s girls outlasted the shorthanded Lady Indians 60-54 to complete the sweep.
After dropping a 52-37 decision inside the Buck Van Huss Dome earlier this season, South coach Mark Pendleton said his team decided to give the Tribe a different look this time around. By inserting big man Clay Phillips into the lineup, South took on a more physical identity and locked D-B into a grinding, halfcourt contest.
“D-B is so big and long that we decided to go big,” Pendleton said. “Instead of starting our regular lineup, we brought Clay in, and what a job he did.
“He had five fouls, and he used them all. He provided a physical presence that we needed tonight.”
With South playing a rugged 2-3 zone, D-B had a hard time getting much going on offense. The Indians led 7-5 after one quarter, but they were also harassed into committing seven turnovers during the first eight minutes.
D-B coach Charlie Morgan watched in disbelief as his team struggled to get open looks and then failed to convert on the good opportunities it did have.
“We never did get into the flow like we wanted,” Morgan said. “We had no rhythm. We missed 10 easy baskets, I think, in the first half. Just point-blank shots, and you’ve got to make those shots.”
For the first three quarters, A.J. Anderson kept D-B afloat. Anderson scored all 17 of his points in the first three frames, allowing the Tribe to enter the fourth quarter trailing 29-28.
Anderson expended most of his energy late in the game guarding South’s Michael Harr, who finished with a game-high 21 points. Anderson went scoreless in the fourth and eventually fouled out in overtime.
After watching his team ride an emotional roller coaster in the final minutes of regulation, Pendleton did his best to refocus his players during the break before overtime.
“They come over to the bench, and we say, ‘Look, we talked before the game about believing and doing. We’ve got to win overtime,’ ” he said.
The Rebels (12-12, 7-5) did just that, taking control early and outscoring the Tribe (19-5, 10-2) 14-6 in the extra period.
The loss erased virtually any shot D-B had of catching Science Hill atop the conference standings, but Morgan was hopeful that there are lessons to be learned from the game.
“I’m really proud of how hard the guys played,” he said. “We got ahead there, but we fouled up on a couple of things there. You can’t do that in a tight ballgame. It will come back and bite you every time.
“Playing in games like this, I hope this will carry over on into the tournament.”
In the girls’ game, South jumped ahead 10-3 and maintained that cushion the rest of the way to beat the Lady Indians.
Kayla Tipton scored 24 points and Brayden Hutchins added 19 to help the Lady Rebels stay one step ahead of a D-B team that has lost two starters to injury.
Sasha Morrisette helped pick up the slack for the Tribe by scoring 22 points. Cydnee Morrisette added 12 while Alex Anderson came through with 10 for D-B (18-6, 8-4), which has the inside line on locking up the third seed in the upcoming District 1-AAA tournament.
The Lady Rebels (15-9, 6-6), meanwhile, seems destined to play in the always dangerous No. 4 vs. No. 5 game, but South coach Josh Tate is happy with the way his squad is playing.
“I think the girls did a good job tonight, possession by possession, of keeping that lead and keeping their composure,” he said. “Hopefully we can get some momentum. That’s what we want to do.”