In a thrilling overtime affair, D-B walked out of the Buck Van Huss Dome with a 68-63 Big 7 Conference boys basketball victory Friday night.
“Just find a way,” said D-B coach Chris Poore. “Find a way to close the game. Find a way to get a stop. We did that in key moments. Our guys kept fighting and they kept competing. I’m just proud of this group for their growth and their improvement to close this game out.”
The Indians (14-11, 8-3) kept their slim conference title hopes alive after avenging their OT loss to Science Hill (26-3, 9-2) on Jan. 17.
“It’s huge,” D-B standout Zane Whitson said of the win. “It gives us a ton of confidence.”
See Todd Brase’s 📸📸 from Friday
D-B put the ball in the hands of talented freshman Brady Stump at the end of regulation. Stump had 3.8 seconds to navigate the length of the floor, and he got into position for a 12-footer just before the horn sounded. But the shot wouldn’t fall.
“I was feeling it all game, and it felt good off the release,” Stump noted.
Undeterred, Stump drained a 3-pointer to start overtime for a 59-56 lead and the Indians never surrendered the advantage.
“I’m just glad we could start off overtime like that,” he said.
Poore said he wasn’t surprised Stump bounced back that quickly.
“He’s a kid who plays with confidence,” the coach said. “He’s confident in his game and our guys have confidence in him. I thought he played really well. He was aggressive to score, and he was aggressive to find his shot.
“I thought we executed well to get him the shot at the end of regulation. It just didn’t go down. And at the start of overtime, it gave us a momentum boost. That’s just a big shot from a good player at the right time.”
SCIENCE HILL JUST SHORT
The Hilltoppers had a chance at the end of regulation and Griffin Ballard drove into the lane. His shot attempt was knocked away, a play on which Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip wanted a foul called.
“There was a lot of contact,” Cutlip said. “There was body. There was everything. But in the end, you want to let the kids decide the game. I guess that’s what was done right there.”
Cutlip said shot selection was one of the things that hurt the Hilltoppers.
“I thought we forced the issue too much tonight,” he said. “I thought we were out of character offensively at times. Obviously it meant a lot to our kids to come over here and win, and I felt like we tried to do it too much by ourselves at times.”
Ballard hit a big shot in overtime, pulling Science Hill within 59-58, but D-B’s Jack Browder responded on the other end for a 61-58 advantage.
Stump hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 62-58, and the Hilltoppers seemed to spend the rest of the overtime period barely missing shots and getting offensive rebounds. Science Hill made only 2 of 15 attempts in the extra period, and probably three or four of those misses seemed to hang on the rim before finally rolling off.
D-B freshman Jonovan Gillespie sank a pair of free throws with 1:57 left to make it 64-58.
The Hilltoppers got within three, 66-63, with just under four seconds remaining, but Gillespie iced the win with two more free throws.
It was a close game throughout with the Indians leading 18-16 after the first quarter. A solid second quarter sent D-B into the locker room with a 34-29 advantage.
Science Hill gained some footing in the third quarter, but the Indians led 47-43 after three. In the fourth quarter, the Hilltoppers jumped ahead early and the teams traded the lead several times until Whitson’s bucket knotted the score at 56-56 with 1:24 to go.
Whitson finished with 14 points to lead D-B. Stump and Abiah Releford each totaled 13, and Malachi Hale added 11. Browder had seven, all in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Keynan Cutlip totaled 15 points for Science Hill. Ballard and Amare Redd each had 12 and Hunter Phillips added nine.
LADY ’TOPPERS WIN BIG 7
Alasia Smith exploded for 32 points and 12 rebounds and Science Hill wrapped up the Big 7 girls title with a 57-38 victory.
Smith upped her game to a postseason level.
“That’s a good sign,” said Science Hill coach Scottie Whaley. “Our kids know what time of year it is. One of their goals was to win the conference championship, and they’ve got other goals, too. They know where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Playing at D-B for a league title had something to do with Smith’s performance.
“It’s kind of a big thing for all us,” Smith said. “We always want to be first in the conference. D-B has such a good environment, we just all had to be ready to play.”
After a tight first half saw Science Hill (20-7, 11-0) with a 31-27 advantage, the Lady Hilltoppers dominated on the defensive end in the third quarter. They outscored D-B (20-9, 8-3) by a 11-3 margin to take a double-digit lead into the final quarter.
Lady Indians coach Bill Francis said his team has endured the same stumbling point against Science Hill.
“I like our movement and things, we’re just not finishing,” Francis said. “I like the direction we’re headed, but right now we just have a hard time scoring.”
And some of that is Science Hill, he said.
“They’re long, they’re athletic, and they’ve got great size,” Francis said.
Jabrea Johnson led the Tribe with 12 points and five rebounds. Jaden Potts totaled seven points and four steals.