GRAY — The Dobyns-Bennett Indians walked into the locker room at halftime of the District 1-AAA boys championship game with a one-point lead and a feeling of confidence.
They walked off the floor after the final buzzer with a sense of déjà vu.
Top-seeded Science Hill turned up the pressure in the final two quarters, forcing 16 turnovers after halftime to score a 70-55 victory over the second-seeded Indians that seemed eerily similar to the Hilltoppers’ win at D-B back on Dec. 14.
Science Hill fell behind against the Tribe in the second quarter of that early-season contest before roaring back for a 74-57 victory behind the perimeter shooting of C.J. Good. Good was a central figure in Tuesday’s game as well, hitting 11 of 13 shots to finish with a game-high 31 points, earning him tournament MVP honors.
“It’s hard to describe the impact C.J. has on the game,” Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “He really shot it with confidence tonight, and shot it well.”
The Tribe led at halftime thanks to stingy half-court defense and a huge size advantage in the paint.
D-B (20-8) went on a 10-0 run in the second period to grab a 22-19 advantage. During that stretch, the Indians forced Science Hill (34-2) into six turnovers in the span of eight possessions.
Connor Mitchell put an exclamation point on the first half when he grabbed an offensive rebound and slammed it through the rim just ahead of the second-quarter buzzer to give D-B the lead.
But once the second half started, it was a different story — and an all-too-familar one at that. D-B committed only six turnovers in the first half, but the miscues came early and often once the third quarter started.
And when Science Hill got its transition game going, it turned into a feeding frenzy.
“They broke loose,” D-B coach Charlie Morgan said. “What happened there is we had those turnovers. Science Hill has been known for years for causing turnovers. When you throw it to them, and they go and lay it back up, it seems like they come back even harder. We could never close the gap.”
When the dust cleared, Science Hill was dribbling the final seconds off the clock at the end of the fourth quarter after outscoring D-B 45-29 in the second half.
Will Adams finished with 16 points for Science Hill.
Makale Foreman had 12 points to lead D-B and A.J. Anderson scored 10.
According to Cutlip, the key to winning was the ability to match D-B on the boards and win the turnover battle. The teams each had 20 rebounds and the Indians committed 22 turnovers to Science Hill’s 14.
Cutlip also credited his team’s relaxed play for the second-half turnaround.
“I thought the second half, our kids went for broke and we just played,” he said. “And that’s what we’ve got to do if we’re going to continue to succeed in the postseason. We’ve just got to play loose.”
Science Hill will host South-Doyle on Saturday night in the Region 1-AAA tournament. D-B also will be at home, against Cocke County.
The Lady Hilltoppers also had a huge second half Tuesday, one that allowed them to run away with the District 1-AAA girls crown. Top-seeded Science Hill demolished No. 2 Tennessee High 84-43.
The game was reasonably close until halftime, but the Lady ’Toppers outscored the Lady Vikings 48-17 over the final two quarters, holding Tennessee High to just four made baskets during the final 16 minutes.
Morgan Knack led Science Hill (29-3) with 23 points. Shy Copney added 18, Enjelica Reid scored 15 and Tianna Tarter had 13.
Ashlee Mitchell scored 15 points and Ashley Byrd had 13 for Tennessee High (24-5).
Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell said his team has just one goal in mind.
“We’re not going to be satisfied unless we win a state championship,” Barnwell said. “This is just a step in that process. These games are just helping us get to that point.”