By Trey Williams
A dream come true for Patrick Good and the end of a nightmare for Peyton Wingate have allowed visions of state titles to dance through each player’s head.
Seniors Good and Wingate led David Crockett and Science Hill, respectively, to the TSSAA Class AAA state basketball tournament.
Wingate’s Hilltoppers (25-10) open against Blackman (32-0) in the Class AAA quarterfinals today at 2:15 p.m. in Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center. The Pioneers (30-5) will play Station Camp (35-1) at 12:30 p.m.
Good, a guard who’s committed to Appalachian State, clinched Crockett’s berth by capping a game-high 29-point performance in a 73-70 sectional win at Oak Ridge on a 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds remaining in overtime. He dribbled some 15-20 seconds while being hounded by adept defender Geevantay Gee with more than 3,000 fans waiting to exhale prior to making the contested step-back 3-pointer from the right corner.
“The shot still feels like a dream,” Good said Monday night. “I’ve practiced those shots numerous times and it was just one of those (Stephen) Curry shots – when you know it’s going in before it hits the bottom of the net.”
Wingate had a year to think after missing a potential game-winner in the 2015 sectional against Oak Ridge. Granted, it was a difficult do-or-die shot on a split-second inbound opportunity at the buzzer. Wingate was the primary reason Science Hill had an opportunity to win thanks to a team-high 17 points, including a game-tying trey with 10.7 seconds remaining, and he nearly made the shot.
But the ultra-competitive Wingate could only focus on the fact that he missed Science Hill’s last shot of his junior season.
“To be honest, the nightmares didn’t stop for probably two months after that game and I don’t think there’s ever been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t thought about that shot at least one time during the course of the day,” Wingate said Monday evening.
But a year later he’s sleeping better, especially after scoring a game-high 23 points in Science Hill’s 23-point sectional win against Karns.
“The pain of losing that game (against Oak Ridge), you know, isn’t gone,” Wingate said, “but it’s … subsided a little bit.”
It’s been a gratifying season for Wingate, one that included scoring his 1,000th career point – something he’s envisioned accomplishing since seeing Science Hill’s all-time leading scorer, Omar Wattad, recognized for scoring his 2,000th point nine years ago.
“I saw Omar did it and I saw everyone appreciate what he did for the program,” Wingate said. “So I just took it upon myself to work hard. … Of course, I haven’t reached 2,000 points, but I was just trying to get to that level and just help Science Hill be that top-notch team it’s always been.”
Blackman coach Barry Wortman has been high on the 6-foot-2 Wingate since a hard-fought victory against the ‘Toppers during a summer-camp game in Murfreesboro in 2014.
“Not only is he a great shooter, but with his size he can shoot it over the top of you,” Wortman said. “They run their offense through him. There are a lot of good players on that team but they understand they run through him. And, of course, Ken (Cutlip) runs a lot of great stuff for him.
“And then his ability to go drive with that right hand and score off the dribble as well makes him very dangerous. And I just think he is, no doubt, the best shot-maker we have played against this year.”
Station Camp coach Seth Massey spoke similarly of Good, who helped Science Hill get to the sectional (Sweet 16) as a freshman before moving to David Crockett when his father John left his assistant’s position with Cutlip’s Hilltoppers to become the Pioneers head coach.
Good has scored more than 2,600 career points.
“He can really, really shoot the ball,” Massey said. “He’s a special player for sure.”
Station Camp and Blackman are deeper and more balanced than their Elite Eight opponents from Washington County. Station Camp has been led in scoring by seven different players this season and has three players that have made at least 50 treys.
2014 state champion Blackman, making its fifth straight state tournament appearance, has seven players who’ve scored in excess of 100 points.
Blackman and Station Camp each have junior point guards. Donovan Sims has a better than 2-to-1 assist-turnover ratio for Blackman, and Chase Freeman’s ratio is better than 3-to-1 for Station Camp.
But their junior counterparts, Crockett’s Josh Releford and Science Hill’s Holden Hensley, have been impressive, too. Wortman is high on Hensley, a Daniel Boone transfer who’s helped the ‘Toppers go 10-2 since becoming eligible after their 15-8 start.
“Hensley can set guys up anywhere in the state,” Wortman said. “He is very good. He is phenomenal at making the right pass for others.”
Jonesborough assisted the Pioneers with what Patrick Good described as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” – a storybook sendoff that included a police escort through town.
“It’s been amazing what they (community members) have done,” John Good said. “People are giving out of their pockets and everything like that. It’s very humbling. I tell the kids every day how much they’ve meant to a lot of people, and how much a lot of people are doing for them.”
Indeed, while this is Science Hill’s 27th state tournament appearance and third under Cutlip, it’s a Hoosiers-like story for Crockett – a 45-year-old program making its first state tournament appearance. In fact, Coach Good often compares soft-spoken second-leading scorer Dustin Day, who scored 15 straight points for the Pioneers in the second half of the win at Oak Ridge, to “Hoosiers” hero Jimmy Chitwood.
“He doesn’t say a lot but just puts it in the basket,” Good said. “When we walk in the building we’re not gonna scare anybody; that’s for sure. But I think if we can just focus on competing and not get overwhelmed, I think we’ll have a chance.”