By TREY WILLIAMS
The Daniel Boone boys basketball team’s third-place finish in the District 1-AAA tournament wouldn’t have surprised many prior to the season.
But Boone was certainly under the radar after finishing last in the Big Seven Conference.
The Trailblazers, however, went 3-1 during four road games in a four-day stretch to secure the No. 3 seed in the Region 1-AAA tournament. Not bad for a team that won two games in the league during the regular season.
Boone (12-14) will visit South-Doyle (10-9) on Saturday at 7 p.m. in a regional quarterfinal.
The district uprising was a welcomed run for a team stymied during the season by a lack of continuity and COVID-19 quarantines, which included Coach Chris Brown being sidelined for 10 days.
“I was very pleased with the total team effort during the district tournament as we got contributions from numerous guys,” Brown said. “It will need to be the same way against South-Doyle.”
Boone’s district performance was highlighted by a 64-44 victory at rival David Crockett, which had completed a regular season sweep at Boone the previous week while the Pioneers’ Mason Britton scored his 1,000th career point.
The Trailblazers took it all in stride, even stopping the game to honor Britton.
“He’s a class act,” Brown said.
Boone’s coming out was bookended by wins in Hawkins County. Cherokee transfer Breiydon Gilliam led the way in a 48-39 win in Rogersville on Tuesday and Caleb Head’s 25-footer at the buzzer lifted the Trailblazers to a 42-39 win at Volunteer on Friday.
Head had sputtered the night before while saddled with foul trouble in a loss at Science Hill, and his bounce-back perhaps best symbolized Boone’s determined district performance.
“Once again, we will rely on Caleb Head and Breiydon Gilliam – both all-district tournament selections – being aggressive and attacking downhill,” Brown said. “They create scoring opportunities for themselves and their teammates.”
South-Doyle had won four of five prior to a 50-44 loss at Jefferson County in the District 2-AAA championship. The Cherokees reached the final thanks to a 60-59 triple-overtime triumph at Morristown East in the semifinals.
Quentin Carr scored all six of South-Doyle’s points in the final overtime and delivered what proved to be the game-winner with 17 seconds remaining.
East was without leading scorer Micah Simpson. Carr led S-D with 21 points and 6-foot-6 Tony Sapp had 18 points and nine rebounds.
“South-Doyle has quite a bit of athleticism and, similar to us, had a good district tournament,” Brown said. “Tony Sapp at 6-6 creates some issues, as he can score inside and out. They have good guard play and look to attack the basket with good, strong drives. We will need to keep their guards out of the paint and limit Sapp’s touches inside the paint.”
It seems fitting that Boone will open regional tournament play after a 15-day layoff. The athletic directors wanted to allow an extra week to prevent potential quarantines during the regional.
Now, though, teams might be healthy but rusty.
“It has been an interesting approach, as we will have had 15 days off since our last game,” Brown said. “We continued to sprinkle in some days off while spending some time working on fundamentals and staying sharp. This week will be a typical game week in terms of preparation, and our guys are excited to get back on the court. … We look forward to the challenge of Saturday night.”
The David Crockett girls will follow their runner-up finish in the district tournament by hosting Seymour (19-8) on Friday at 7 p.m. in a regional quarterfinal. The Pioneers (14-8) defeated Daniel Boone for the third time this season and bested Dobyns-Bennett for the second time in three meetings before taking top-seeded Science Hill to the wire in the district title game.
“We’re excited to be hosting the first regional game in the history of our program,” first-year Crockett Coach Thomas Gouge said. “The girls are focused and ready to go. Seymour is a talented team that can really score it. They hit 17 threes in the first round of their district versus Morristown East and scored 83. We will have to do a good job communicating and locating shooters and running them off the 3-point line.
“I’m very confident in my team and our defense has been great throughout the year and now we just have to bring that same effort on Friday night.”
Emma Gouge leads the Pioneers with 12 points per game. She’s also averaging six rebounds and four assists. Mackenzie Baldwin is averaging nine points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
Other Crockett notables include Halle Scott (7 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg), Nora Walters (5 ppg, 5 rpg) and Alyssa Suits (8 ppg, 3 apg).