By TREY WILLIAMS
The David Crockett girls basketball team will take the court on the eve of Valentine’s Day without anyone questioning its heart.
The reeling Pioneers had lost three straight, including blowout losses to Big Seven Conference co-leaders Dobyns-Bennett and Science Hill, and were six days removed from a gut-wrenching double-overtime loss to Tennessee High when they found themselves trailing 35-23 at Cherokee early in the fourth quarter of their regular-season league finale on Feb. 5.
However, instead of mailing it in down the stretch, Crockett’s young team earned another stamp of approval from passionate first-year coach Tony Gordon. The Pioneers ended the game on an unreal 15-1 run and left Rogersville with a stunning 38-36 victory.
Sophomore Mackenzie Baldwin’s last-second put-back capped the triumph. Freshman Emily Trivette (13 points) and sophomore Emma Gouge (nine points, nine rebounds) helped make Baldwin’s dramatic follow up possible.
And for their trouble, the Pioneers (8-17) will get to return to Cherokee (17-10) on Feb. 13 when a District 1-AAA tournament first round game doubles as the teams’ season rubber match. The winner secures a regional berth.
Gordon said at the beginning of the season a regional berth should be within reach, and that’s obviously the case now despite losing experienced junior guard Karina Palomino to an ACL tear sustained during the season.
“Regardless, my team has embraced the change in culture and is hungry to take the next step in the development of our program,” Gordon said. “Our team is hungry and determined to become a team that can be a source of pride for our community.”
Cherokee won the first meeting 46-41 at Crockett on Jan. 11. Harper Russell scored six points in a one-second span of the fourth quarter thanks, in part, to a technical foul to help the Chiefs rally for the win. Russell didn’t play down the stretch of Crockett’s satisfying rematch, but is expected back on Wednesday.
“Both teams match up well, very similar in size and style,” Gordon said. “We have to find ways to score in order to be successful. I’m very confident in our defense. That’s been the most consistent aspect of our game.”
Gouge is leading the Pioneers with around 13 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Baldwin is leading the team in rebounds.
“In year one, they have exceeded expectations,” Gordon said. “The best is in front of us.”
The David Crockett boys (7-19), seeded sixth in the District 1-AAA tournament, will try to break through against Science Hill (14-15) when they visit the Hilltoppers for a first round tournament game on Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Pioneers lost 77-52 at Science Hill on Feb. 1 after opening the game on an 11-4 run. Juniors Mack Hensley (16 points) and Donta Hackler (14) scored in double figures, as did Mason Britton (10).
Crockett lost the first meeting of the season against the ‘Toppers 72-64 at Crockett. Hackler piled up 23 points in that one. Hensley (13) and hard-nosed senior John Kollie (10) also scored in double figures.
The Hilltoppers’ front line gave Crockett fits in both games. Senior forward Drew Morrison, a 5-foot-10, 230-pounder, tallied 12 of his 13 points in the final 11:49 of the first meeting and led Science Hill with 17 points in the rematch. Frontcourt mates Jake Matherne and Hunter Phillips have also had double-digit scoring performances against the Pioneers.
“We have to limit their inside touches,” Crockett coach John Good said. “(We) can’t turn it over,l need to put some pressure on their defense by running the floor.”
Crockett concluded the regular season with a 59-52 win at Unicoi County on Friday. Britton (13 points), Hensley (11) and Hackler ( 11) each scored in double figures in the victory.
Hensley is leading the Pioneers with 14 points per game. Britton’s averaging a team-high five rebounds per game and freshman point guard Dawson Wagner is leading the team with five assists per game.
The third-seeded Daniel Boone (19-9) girls will play for a regional berth when they host seventh-seeded Tennessee High on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Junior Jaycie Jenkins scored her 1,000th career point when the Trailblazers concluded the regular season with a 59-36 home win against Tennessee High on Senior Night this past Friday. Jenkins was shooting two free throws and sitting on 999 career points with 1:04 remaining. She made both free throws and the game was stopped to recognize her.
Senior Bayleigh Carmichel, who scored her 1,000th point on Dec. 4 and has signed with Trevecca Nazarene, was pleased to see the other half of Boone’s formidable duo reach a milestone during her final regular season game.
“It was very fitting,” Carmichel said. “I was happy for her, because I had no idea. In the third quarter they said she needed seven more and I was like, ‘Get her the ball.’”
The fourth-seeded Daniel Boone boys (11-12) will host Cherokee (9-18) on Thursday at 7 p.m. to try and secure a regional berth. The Chiefs are playing well of late. They lost in overtime at home to Science Hill on Friday and defeated second-place Tennessee High 67-47 on Jan. 25.
Boone lost 63-49 to Tennessee High at home on Friday. Judah Hilton and Chad Heglar led Boone with 10 and nine points, respectively.