By TREY WILLIAMS
David Crockett senior Mason Britton is a tough matchup on the basketball court.
Britton shook off the rust of a nine-day layoff to pile up 21 points, 12 rebounds and four steals and make all six of his foul shots to help the Pioneers defeat Unicoi County 64-60 in a non-conference game Monday at Crockett.
The Pioneers (4-1) didn’t score in the opening 3:55 of the game and were behind 17-10 when Britton, a 6-foot-4 senior wing, got going with 6:52 left in the first half. That’s when he hit the first of three 3-pointers, and it ignited a 16-3 run that gave Crockett a 26-20 halftime lead. Britton scored 10 of the 16.
“We came out just a little sluggish,” Britton said. “I guess that’s where we hadn’t played. We’ve got a big game Friday against Volunteer – a conference game – and I think this win was real good for us.”
Britton scored from behind the arc, via an assisted mid-range basket and a floater in the lane and on a transition put-back. His second quarter outburst got rolling when the sturdy-built 6-foot-5 Lucas Slagle (22 points) was matched up on him while Crockett went to a five-guard lineup.
“I was like, ‘Go have a field day, man. You can shoot the three. Shoot it,’” Crockett second-year coach Cody Connell said. “So he did great at the beginning taking over and doing that. I thought he kind of went cold for a little bit in the third, didn’t get the ball very much. The fourth quarter he wanted the basketball and said, ‘Give me the ball.’ And he just made plays. … I thought he did great tonight.”
Unicoi County second-year coach John Good, who guided Crockett to its first state tournament in 2016 and two of the program’s three sectional berths, wouldn’t mind coaching Britton.
“He (Britton) has a good stroke and he’s under control,” Good said. “He’s able to put the ball on the floor, too. And they had us in a matchup problem there when Lucas was guarding him and everything. We had to adjust there.”
Unicoi County (5-4) had its chances in the final minute. With the score tied 60-60 the Blue Devils missed an open 3-pointer, a driving short-range bank and the front end of a one-and-one free throw with 11.8 seconds left.
Crockett’s Ayden Begley was fouled on the rebound and made both ends of a one-and-one for a 62-60 lead with 10.5 seconds to go. Unicoi missed the front end of another one-and-one with 5.3 seconds left and Britton went to the line at the other end to preserve victory.
Begley had 12 points, nine rebounds and three assists for Crockett. He answered Bryson Peterson’s three-point play by finishing a spin move with his left hand for an and-one that he converted to tie the score, 58-58, with 2:51 left. Britton’s quick-release, pull-up trey from the right wing had tied the score at 55 with 3:17 left.
The Pioneers were 9-for-10 at the foul line. Unicoi was 6 of 9 at the stripe.
“They made big shots when they needed to,” Good said. “We can’t hit free throws and we turn it over in bunches, it seems like. … We can’t get out of our own way.”
Crockett got 14 points and three steals from Clint Pierce and nine points and two steals from Isaiah Lang, whose 3-pointer gave the Pioneers a 48-45 lead with 6:02 remaining.
“I told my guys we really needed this game,” Connell said. “I mean obviously they’re well-coached. He’s a great coach. I knew they were gonna be prepared.
“I told my guys we’ve got a big conference game on Friday and we hadn’t played in nine days. We needed something – a hard game, a good game. And I thought our guys took the challenge and did what they were supposed to do tonight.”
Clint Pierce had 14 points and three steals for Crockett. Isaiah Lang had nine points and two steals, and hit a 3-pointer that gave the Pioneers a 48-45 lead with 6:02 remaining.
Daniel Boone’s boys dropped a pair of games last week, losing 56-48 at Sullivan East on Wednesday and 77-65 at Volunteer (4-0) on Friday.
The Trailblazers (4-3) appeared in control much of the way at East. They led 13-4 at the end of a quarter and were ahead 39-26 midway through the third period.
Breiydon Gilliam scored 17 points in the Dyer Dome. Landon Carrico added 13.
Gilliam scored 20 points at Volunteer two nights later. Freshman guard Samuel Stroupe added 17 against the Falcons. Carrico and point guard Caleb Head added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Daniel Boone girls got productive performances from Savannah Jessee in losses at East and Volunteer. Jessee scored 12 against the Patriots and 15 at Volunteer, and both were team highs for the Trailblazers (0-3).
David Crockett’s girls had to postpone or cancel a game Monday against Unicoi County. The Pioneers (3-1) now aren’t scheduled to play until Monday at University High. They rescheduled Cherokee for Dec. 22 and the Volunteer girls game has been moved to Dec. 29.
Emma Gouge is averaging 13.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. Mackenzie Baldwin is averaging 11 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Emily Trivette (9.5 ppg), Nora Walters (8.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Alyssa Suits (8.0 ppg, 2.7 spg) and Halle Scott (5.0 ppg, 6.7 apg, 3.0 spg) are also off to solid starts.