By Jeff Keeling
After a surprising loss at Daniel Boone Jan. 25, Science Hill’s boys basketball team stood at 14-8 overall. Then the Hilltoppers turned their season around, culminating in Monday night’s home substate win over Knox Karns, a 71-48 masterpiece that has the team headed to the state tournament for the first time since 2012.
Peyton Wingate led all scorers with 23 points, including two three-pointers early in the third quarter that helped stretch an eight-point halftime lead to 13. The matchup with the Region Two runner up team was far preferable to the alternative – a road trip to Oak Ridge – and came by virtue of Science Hill’s only win against David Crockett in four tries this season, a 48-46 grinder in Thursday’s regional championship.
The Pioneers, though, bounced back from their first loss in 18 games to beat Oak Ridge in overtime for the second time this year, this time in the unfriendly confines of Oak Ridge’s home gym. Senior guard Patrick Good scored 29 points and hit the game winner from beyond the three-point arc late in overtime.
The 73-70 Crockett win means two local teams will be among just eight with a chance at a state title when the TSSAA tournament kicks off in Murfreesboro next Wednesday.
At the Topper Palace, Wingate’s performance was supported by balanced scoring. Nate Jackson had 13 points, all in the second half, to pick up a void left by Chris Linville, who had eight points but was nursing an injury much of the second half. Bowden Lyon collected nine rebounds to go with 10 points, and late season addition Holden Hensley, a point guard, had seven points.
Science Hill heads to Murfreesboro 25-10 but winners of 11 of its last 13 games. Crockett is 30-5, with the Science Hill loss its only defeat at the hands of an in-state team. The rest of the field includes Walker Valley, Blackman, Station Camp, Hillsboro, Cordova and Memphis East. Science Hill is the only non-district champion in the field, and Crockett is the only team to have won its substate game on the road.