By Trey Williams
Just when it appeared Science Hill might stage an upset Patrick Good stole the show, becoming a repeat offender along with his David Crockett teammates.
Good scored seven of his game-high 31 points in the final 2:36 and the Pioneers defeated the Hilltoppers, 81-71, in the District 1-AAA championship Saturday at Volunteer High School.
It was the second straight district title for top-seeded Crockett (27-4), which had previously gone 31 years without one. And Good, a senior combo guard who’s committed to Appalachian State, won his second consecutive district tournament MVP award.
The going was considerably rougher for the regular-season champion Daniel Boone Lady Trailblazers, which lost 45-30 to Dobyns-Bennett in the championship game. The loss almost certainly means Boone will have to beat third-ranked Morristown West in the regional semifinals to advance to the state’s sectional round (Sweet 16).
The road to Murfreesboro hasn’t detoured yet for Good and Crockett, which also got double-figure scoring from junior combo guard Josh Releford (20), senior post Ian Martin (13) and senior swing man Brendan Coleman (10) in the championship game after Good (24) and Releford (19) combined for 43 points in a 73-50 win against Daniel Boone in the semifinals.
Another rout appeared to be materializing in the final when Crockett closed the third quarter on a 10-2 run to take a 64-45 lead. But Science Hill (21-10) answered with a 19-7 spurt that senior shooting guard Peyton Wingate (21 points) capped with a 3-pointer to cut Crockett’s lead to 71-64 with 2:57 to go.
But everyone in what appeared to be a capacity crowd could’ve predicted what would happen next. Good, who has scored in excess of 2,600 career points, appeared calmest when the game’s tension peaked, and he made a difficult step-back 3-pointer from well beyond the key to push Crockett’s cushion back to 10 with 2:36 remaining. The lead remained in double digits from there.
Releford, who was getting some respect from East Tennessee State legend Calvin Talford shortly before the final, was about as impressive as Good for much of the night. He matched Good’s four 3-pointers, the last of which was a gutsy 25-foot pull-up that gave the Pioneers a 71-57 lead with 3:48 remaining.
Releford also scored via drives, a 10-foot baseline floater and a mid-range runner.
“Obviously, he had a great game, and against Boone,” Good said. “But I mean throughout the season he’s been solid. He’d give us 15 points, five points. But what’s scary is he doesn’t really have to score to affect the game. Just his presence on defense and for him to handle the ball really is … about the equivalent to him scoring 20 or 25 points.”
Releford is quick to credit Crockett’s coaching staff – third-year head coach John Good and assistants Mike Boyd, Tony Gordon, Damon Johnson and Corbin Stevens. The Pioneers are prone to exploit favorable matchups more consistently than many teams.
“Coach (Good), he instills confidence in all of us,” Releford said. “So if he says nobody can guard us then that makes me feel like, ‘OK, nobody can guard me, so I’m gonna try to make a play.’”
Releford has received an offer from Tennessee Wesleyan, as has the 6-foot-7 Coleman. Quite a few offers could follow in the coming year for Releford, but the future is now for the senior-laden Pioneers. Anything less than a state tournament berth will be somewhat of a disappointment for the state’s fifth-ranked team, which beat eighth-ranked Oak Ridge 87-85 in December in an epic Arby’s Classic double-overtime clash.
Winning the regional would likely keep Crockett from having to play the Wildcats (30-2) in the sectional. If the teams meet again, Oak Ridge will have a motivational edge.
“To know that we were their first loss,” Good said, “and I guess you could kind of say they were supposed to beat us – they’ve been to the state and we haven’t been out of the region yet – I know that they’ll have a chip on their shoulder and a great game plan to attack us with.”
Not that Good is looking past the region, which Crockett will open at home on Saturday at 7 p.m. The semifinals and championship will be hosted by Morristown East.
Good wouldn’t be surprised if Crockett has to beat Science Hill for a fourth straight time if the Pioneers are to win what should be a balanced regional.
“I feel like every time we’re going against each other it’s gonna be a great game,” Good said. “I mean I don’t think we can go out there and they’re just gonna give up. I know they’re gonna bring it.”
Boone’s Lady Trailblazers failed to follow up on their regular-season championship thanks, in part, to Dobyns-Bennett’s Courtney Whitson. The freshman forward was named tournament MVP.
It was D-B’s second win in three games this season against Boone (24-7), which got no points from standout sophomore Sydney Pearce and two points from senior Jaclyn Jenkins – a career 1,000-point scorer.
“We can learn a lot from the D-B game,” Boone coach Travis Mains said. “We have to play with a lot more intensity. But we’re young and I think they will (bounce back).”
Boone will host South Doyle (19-11) on Friday at 7 p.m. South Doyle has won 10 of 11.
A win would likely give Boone a third shot at Morristown West (27-3), which swept the Lady ‘Blazers (40-32, 54-45) during the season.
“We have played them twice and have competed and had chances to take them out,” Mains said. “Hopefully, the third time’s the charm. Tournament basketball is really special. Teams that defend and rebound and knock down big shots move on.”
Science Hill’s boys will also host a first-round regional game on Saturday while Boone’s boys will travel for a first-round regional game.