By TREY WILLIAMS
The David Crockett girls basketball team got a glimpse of its first-ever District 1-AAA title waiting at the finish line, but ran out of fuel in the homestretch.
Playing their third game in as many days, the third-seeded Pioneers built a 47-42 lead against top-seeded Science Hill with 4:20 remaining on Friday at Science Hill. But the Hilltoppers responded with a game-ending 11-2 run, and the 53-49 victory gave them a third straight district title.
Senior Emma Gouge scored 14 points, including a difficult fade-away bank, to pace the Pioneers (14-8), which had eliminated Daniel Boone on Tuesday at Crockett and defeated second-seeded Dobyns-Bennett for the second time in three meetings this season Wednesday in Kingsport.
Heightening the degree of difficulty for the Pioneers was the fact that Emily Trivette, one of their top perimeter shooters, was nursing a sore ankle.
“It’s our third game in three days and Trivette sprained her ankle pretty good (at Dobyns-Bennett),” emotionally drained first-year coach Thomas Gouge said afterward. “So she was kind of hobbling tonight. And I think we kind of may have run out of a little bit of gas. We might’ve been a step slow (late in the game).
“But it wasn’t because they wanted to be. They laid it all on the line. They threw their hearts out there for this team and I’m just proud of ‘em. But the legs may have given out a little bit late. It was three battles too – three tough games.”
Post Kadence Fannon scored 10 points for the Pioneers, who also got nine from Alyssa Suits and eight apiece from Halle Scott and Mackenzie Baldwin. Suits made three 3-pointers from the left corner during a 5:50 stretch beginning late in the third quarter. The last one gave Crockett the 47-42 with 4:20 to go.
“She (Gouge) is a tough matchup for anybody in our league,” Science Hill Coach Scottie Whaley said. “She’s a great player and we had to try to do some things to get the ball out of her hands. She was killing us.
“And they made some shots. Suits hits that three over there and you’re like, ‘Gosh, it may not be your night.’ But then our kids just kept making plays.”
Crockett won 43-40 at Dobyns-Bennett in the semifinals on Thursday. It was the Pioneers’ second straight win against the Indians after 34 consecutive losses in the series. Scott had 14 points and four rebounds and Gouge finished with 12 points and four steals.
Scott also scored 14 points and tallied eight rebounds and three assists in the Pioneers’ 50-35 win against Daniel Boone on Wednesday at Crockett.
“Halle carried us (against Boone),” Gouge said.
Scott was 6 of 12 from the field, including 2-for-5 shooting from 3-point distance, and scored seven points while Crockett dashed to an early 15-point lead. Boone cut a 20-5 deficit to 22-20 late in the first half, but Crockett answered with a 23-5 run to take a 45-25 lead with 5:09 remaining.
“I’m just so proud of my team, proud of my girls,” Gouge said. “They battled and they laid it all on the line (at Science Hill). It was a fast-paced game and I didn’t have a person ask to come out. They busted it the entire game. We just came up a play or two short.”
The Pioneers will host a regional quarterfinal on Friday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.
The Daniel Boone girls finished the season with a 2-19 record, but they also finished by winning two of their final six games. A 54-41 win at Cherokee in the District 1-AAA play-in game avenged a regular season sweep by the Chiefs.
Makayla Gourley scored a team-high 12 points at Cherokee while fellow senior McKenna Dietz and Camryn Sarvis scored nine apiece. Dietz and freshman Kyleigh Bacon each had six assists.
Senior Rebecca Higgins, Camryn Sarvis and Savannah Jessee scored eight points apiece in the loss to Crockett.
“I know what the record was … but I don’t think our girls were ready for it to be over,” Boone coach Beau Hauldren said. “They thought we could win the game (at Crockett). We got down early there. … But we battled back, man, and that’s what they’ve done all year. They’ve battled, they haven’t quit and they brought it every single day. …
“McKenna got hurt in the third game of the season against Sullivan East. She was out for a while. People don’t understand, we were in quarantine twice. There for a little bit we were in quarantine longer than we’d practiced all year. But man, the guts and the character they have shown has been outstanding. Obviously, we’ve got some younger girls. These seniors have been great for us. They’ve shown up every day.”
After finishing last in the Big Seven Conference, the Daniel Boone boys won three games in four days to secure the No. 3 seed and a road game in the regional quarterfinals on February 27.
The Trailblazers (12-14) defeated Cherokee 48-39 on Tuesday in the play-in game, clinched a regional berth by eliminating David Crockett 64-44 on Wednesday in Jonesborough and lost 60-47 at Science Hill on Thursday before bouncing back with 42-39 consolation victory at Volunteer on Friday.
The win at Volunteer came compliments of senior Caleb Head’s 25-foot buzzer-beater. Head had struggled the night before at Science Hill thanks, in part, to one difficult charge call.
Head scored a team-high 16 points for the Trailblazers. Breiydon Gilliam added 11.
“I am just extremely proud of our team and the resiliency they showed all year,” Boone coach Chris Brown said. “We had eight new faces that had never played a varsity minute together. Things that we tend to learn in the spring and summer such as identifying roles, learning to play with one another, understanding our offensive and defensive philosophies, were basically implemented throughout the regular season.
“Then we faced COVID-19 issues. Coaches and players were sidelined and our program shut down for a period of time. For our guys to face the adversity they were dealt with and still continue to stay the course and believe in each other was great to see.
“To play four road games in the tournament and win three shows the character of our kids. It was a total team effort and we got contributions from everyone. Breiydon Gilliam and Caleb Head were all tournament selections and both made numerous contributions throughout our district tournament run. We are excited about advancing to the region tournament and look forward to the challenge ahead.”
Gilliam had 28 points and eight rebounds while eliminating Crockett on its home floor. The Pioneers (13-11), who got 15 points apiece from Clint Pierce and Ayden Begley and 11 from Mason Britton, had swept Boone during the regular season.
Crockett’s surprisingly rewarding season included a third-place finish in the Big Seven Conference and a win against Science Hill.
“You can’t go off of one game and say that’s how our season was,” Crockett coach Cody Connell said. “I mean that team, they accomplished more than most teams do. We beat Boone twice. We beat Science Hill, which that doesn’t happen a lot. We had great players and great kids. And at the end of the day, their character shows.”